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Cocktails

Brazil’s Icy, Creamy Batida Is a Beachside Staple

May 01, 2024

Story: Rafael Tonon

photo: Rodrigo Azevedo

Cocktails

Brazil’s Icy, Creamy Batida Is a Beachside Staple

May 01, 2024

Story: Rafael Tonon

photo: Rodrigo Azevedo

The ubiquitous cachaça drink is considered by some to be “the most Brazilian of all cocktails.”

In his 1944 book, Coquetel em Suas Diversas Fórmulas (Cocktail in Its Many Forms), João Zarattini, a prominent Brazilian bartender, refers to the Batida as “the most Brazilian of all cocktails.” In its native home, the drink—whose name literally translates to “shaken”—transcends the sum of its parts: cachaça, fruits and sugar.

While records, including those of Zarattini, trace the consumption of Batidas back almost a century, it wasn’t until the 1960s and ’70s that the cocktail truly skyrocketed in popularity. It became a staple at beach gatherings and parties, and in major cities like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, bars opened that were specifically dedicated to the Batida. 

In Brazil, the frozen drink is an indispensable pre-dinner serve. In his 1974 book, Traçado Geral das Batidas (General Outline of Batidas), Roberto Costa defined the cocktail as “a cold aperitif, primarily composed of cachaça, sugar, fruits, juices, or essences, blended with ice using hand mixers or blenders.” While its origins are murky, given Brazil’s tropical climate and abundance of fruits—from coconut to pineapple to cashew fruit—it was only natural that they would be mixed with ice and a generous pour of cachaça, Brazil’s homegrown spirit. “Batida epitomized the prevailing taste for fruity and sweeter cocktails of its time,” says bartender Igor Renovato, of Surubar in Rio de Janeiro. He says the drink has become quintessential, especially in botecos, the no-frills dives that can be found across Brazil and are deeply ingrained in local culture. 

In recent years, however, the Batida has been overlooked by many bartenders precisely because of its widespread popularity. The drink is fairly absent from the upscale counters of buzzy new cocktail bars in the country’s largest cities. “We were all—and still are—influenced by European and American schools, where the Batida doesn’t exist,” says Renovato of Brazil’s emergent cocktail scene. “Thus, we confine it to botecos, street parties, Carnival and beach huts.” 

Renovato is part of a new wave of bartenders dedicated to reintroducing drinks he categorizes as “Brazilian Popular Mixology” to cocktail lists, prominently featuring the Batida and other local cocktails. At Surubar, he offers variations on the classic including one made with coconut, apple juice for a hint of acidity and sweetened condensed milk for added creaminess

The latter ingredient is contentious today. Often referred to simply as condensed milk, it became nearly ubiquitous in Batidas after gaining popularity in the 1960s, when the local dairy industry launched extensive campaigns to boost its consumption. It quickly found its way into numerous desserts, from brigadeiros to puddings, and, naturally, made its way into blended drinks like Batidas, imparting a sought-after silky texture.

Batida Brazil Cocktail Recipe
Recipes

Batida de Coco

Fresh coconut adds creamy tropical notes to the Brazilian classic.

“Although many people associate Batidas with condensed milk, it’s important to remember that the earliest recipes didn’t include this ingredient, nor any dairy at all,” explains Rogério Rabbit, a bartender at the beach shack Rabbit, which specializes in Batidas and Caipirinhas, in the coastal city of Santos. He serves a range of riffs on the drink, flavored with everything from coconut to peanuts, but he doesn’t add a single drop of condensed milk.

According to Rabbit, Batidas have always been sugary, reflecting Brazil’s strong connection to the ingredient—after all, the country is the world’s top producer and exporter of sugar cane. “Today, many claim that sweet drinks are childish or for those who don’t appreciate refined tastes. The cocktail industry seems to dictate that everything must now be bitter,” he says. “However, sugar is a defining element of our culture, just as bitter flavors define the Italian palate, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of that.” But, he adds, “of course, moderation is key.” 

Bartender Edu Tavares, from the iconic Riviera Bar in São Paulo, shares the sentiment. Because of the Batida’s perceived simplicity—just toss everything in a blender and press a button for a few seconds until you hear the whirring sound, the thinking goes—many bars have begun serving the drink without being mindful of the recipe, resulting in unbalanced, overly sweet drinks, often due to too much condensed milk or an overly strong presence of cachaça.

But the Batida’s reputation as an unbalanced or excessively heavy drink is changing. “Bartenders [are demonstrating] that it’s possible to create lighter versions,” says Tavares, who serves several riffs on the drink. His Batida variation, the Maracujibre, combines passion fruit pulp, ginger, a touch of condensed milk and cachaça. He takes great care to achieve a good balance between spirit and sweetness, while also paying attention to texture and ensuring a refreshingly cold temperature. 

When you have a Batida made the right way, he says, “it’s difficult to understand why Batidas disappeared from some cocktail lists” in the first place.

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