While the food was phenomenal, I must say that my favorite treats in South America seemed to come in liquid form. Anyone who knows me understands that I have a strange addiction and obsession with juice, most likely stemming back to my childhood of sucking down a gallon of ocean spray cran-raspberry each day. Over the years I have replaced that delicious but unnatural beverage with more healthy forms of hydration, but still to this day, nothing quenches my thirst like a glass of juice. In Brazil, there was nothing better than sipping something cool and refreshing after spending a day in the ninety five degree plus heat. Then again, maybe there is just something to be said for the fresh fruits and ingredients squeezed or shaken into each unique concoction that I tried while in The country.
I was shocked to find that water itself was astronomical in price. Restaurants and hotels would charge upwards of seven real for a small bottle and it seemed near impossible to find liters sold in most stores. One day, during a fit of frustration, my mom asked how anyone managed to survive and stay hydrated. The response was a quick exclamation: coconut water! The thought hadn’t even occurred to us. In America, coconut water is a marketing fad. Sugar laden, processed water, flavored like stale coconuts is bottled up and sold for five dollars a bottle. In Brazil, freshly tapped coconuts are available every twenty feet along the sidewalk for just two real. Packed with vitamins beyond any electorlyte amped sports drink, I couldn’t help but to think back on old science courses and come to the conclusion that coconuts must grow in tropical locations to serve the exact biological purpose of providing the nutrients and hydration necessary to survive in a hot climate. I now firmly believe in the old adage “a coconut a day keeps the doctor away”. That’s how it goes right?
My next discovery quickly became a breakfast staple. Each morning I joined the buffet crowds and perused the many juice options available. One day, I noticed a thick, pale green gloop amongst the brightly colored pitchers of pineapple and papaya juice. Always an adventurer, I poured myself a glass of the unlabeled mystery drink and took a tentative sip. Avocado juice! I wouldn’t necessarily call it juice, avocado is so thick that the consistency was much closer to that of a smoothie, and I later found out after investigation that it is blended with milk. Very filling, it provided good fuel for the day.
Speaking of fuel, I’m not usually one for energy drinks, but while in Brazil I just had to buy some guarana at least once. My mother and I shared this fruity and caffeinated beverage after we reached the top of the Christ Redeemer Statue. I sipped this icy cold carbonated beverage from its golden can as I gazed up at one of the wonders of the world.
The following day, my mom and I enjoyed some time exploring. We walked from Copacobana to Ipanema beach and then investigated deeper into the neighborhood in search of lunch. It was there that we stumbled upon the quirky cafe, ZaZa Bistro. The drink list was filled with creative cocktails. I opted for a non alcoholic beverage since we were in the middle of the heat of the day and had a long night ahead. Without fail, I always have to order anything on a menu that has lychees in it, and that day was no exception. This drink with fresh basil was equally as light and delicious as it was beautiful to behold.
With no time to spare for rest, my Mom and I eventually found we needed a little boost to stay nourished. Look no further than Brazilian smoothie and snack shop: MegaMatte. Here they serve a deep purple concoction called the Mega Acai. Eaten with a spoon, the thick smoothie contains banana, guarana, antioxidant rich acai and strawberry. Toted as a hangover cure, I tried the Mega Acai and have never tasted a better smoothie.
Saving the best for last, one cannot forget to mention the national drink, the caipirinha! Beers such as Skol, Shin or Brahma were alright, and Brazilian Rose or Chardonnay had a place in my heart. However, nothing beats the sweet and sour combination of sugar muddled with lime, finished off with a long pour of strong Brazilian cachaca and lots of ice. This drink was inexpensive, at about ten real, and easily found absolutely anywhere from fine dining restaurants to street side carts. This was my go to drink during my entire stay. You can’t go wrong with a caipirinha- the beverage that’s refreshing, flavorful, and cheap, but strong enough to start- or end- every night in the right way.