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If rum seems a bit ho-hum to you, look to South America for its tasty highball replacement. That’s where cachaça, a liquor made from fermented and distilled sugarcane juice, rules. Though cachaça’s main U.S. presence was, formerly, in Brazilian restaurants, the lovely liquid is now hitting cocktail menus of swank lounges and bars from east coast to west. (In fact, cachaça imports to the United States tripled between 2002 and 2007.) Your best way into the land of cachaça is to start with the drink’s best training wheels, the ever-so-tasty caipirinha -- a sweet-and-sour cocktail that’s a muddle of cachaça, lime, and sugar.

For one of the most authentic, tastiest caipirinhas that you’ll ever sip stateside, stop by Plataforma Churrascaria Rodizio (316 West 49th Street, 212-245-0505, www.churrascariaplataforma.com) in New York City. Yep, it’s a Brazilian restaurant -- but it serves a truly traditional mix of the drink that’s simply out of this world. And even better, its straight-up (okay, over ice) caipirinha makes a fine companion for the restaurant’s nonstop meat delights.

Moving Beyond Tradition
Modern twists on the authentic caipirinha:

CHICAGO When in the Windy City, warm up with a Luxe Caipirinha N27 at Nacional 27 (325 West Huron Street, 312- 664-2727, www.nacional27.net). Mixologist Adam Seger adds some yuzu marmalade, whole lime, and homemade lime syrup into his glass of joy.

BOSTON Put a Brazilian spin on tasty tapas at Toro (1704 Washington Street, 617-536- 4300, www.toro-restaurant.com), which offers a Caramelized Caipirinha. Caramelized? Yep, that’s the treatment they give the limes before the muddle begins. It’s the perfect sip for the restaurant’s dark and sexy vibe.

PHILADELPHIA Take on Brazil by way of Cuba by infusing your night with the amped-up fruity goodness of Alma de Cuba’s (1623 Walnut Street, 215-988-1799, www.almadecubarestaurant.com) versions of the classic cocktail, which include black cherry, pineapple, and original lime.

DALLAS Falling for cachaça but have a friend who’s still stuck on tequila? Break him into the caipirinha way at La Duni Latin Cafe (4620 McKinney Avenue, 214-520-7300, www.laduni.com). Their cocktail menu features both a traditional caipirinha, and a margarinha, made with tequila and cointreau as tasty stand-ins for the cachaça. Whichever way you go, it’s a safe bet that you’ll muddle through in tasty style.

LOS ANGELES Cachaça’d out? Well, you’ll be back. In the meantime, consider trying a caipiroska -- a caipirinha that’s gone over to the vodka side of the bar -- at the new Bar Centro at the Bazaar by José Andrés (SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills, 465 South La Cienega Boulevard, 310-246-5555, www.thebazaar.com).