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Cheer on World Cup competitors with eclectic drink choices

| Tuesday, June 17, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

World Cup mania has descended as the planet's best football teams vie for the sport's ultimate championship in Brazil.

OK, so we call it soccer in the United States.

Whatever the name, there's something special about a sport where the size of the athlete and the size of the country bear no direct relationship to success. Polished skills, teamwork, cunning and ability to grab the moment make the difference in the “beautiful game.”

Admittedly, scoring can be in short supply. The sport requires patient observation when watching on television. While following the matches and admiring the performances, lift a cup or two of these classic cocktails and wine from the participating nations:

Brazilians have it bad for the World Cup. The country has won five titles and claims some of the sport's most fabled players, such as Pelé.

When the national team plays, normally bustling, congested streets fall silent as the entire nation rivets attention on the match. Even so, Brazilians always make time to enjoy a glass of cold c aipirinha.

This tasty cocktail mixes 2 1 / 2 ounces cachaça — a sugar cane spirit — with freshly squeezed juice from half a lime, 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 cup ice. Cachaça comes in dazzling variations. But the classic caipirinha uses the clear, pure “white” version to enhance pure refreshment.

Boca Loca Cachaça, Brazil ($23.99) is available exclusively through Dreadnought Wines in the Strip District (412-391-1709). The name “Boca Loca” translates to “crazy lips,” a perfect metaphor for the free-spirited Brazilian approach to savoring and enjoying the moment.

Originally, only slaves and local natives consumed cachaça, while wealthier elites favored imported spirits. Today, cachaça's appeal has broadened as adult Brazilians consume, on average, 3 gallons of the drink annually.

Unlike most Caribbean rums that ferment molasses, cachaça derives from the juice of hand-harvested, freshly pressed sugar cane fermented with special yeasts. Distillation captures fruity aromas and pure, fruity flavors with none of the rough qualities of many rums. Highly recommended.

The English invented modern soccer, but the Brits typically come up empty on the World Cup's big stage. Not to worry. There's always a pint of bitter beer and a Pimm's Cup to enjoy.

Pimm's Cup No. 1 Liqueur (4066; $18.99) is a tea-colored, gin-based liqueur incorporating quinine, herbs and spices as a delightful foundation for a refreshing cocktail.

Fill a large pitcher with ice and add one part Pimm's Cup No. 1 to two parts lemonade made from freshly squeezed lemons. Mix in thin cucumber slices, orange slices and strawberries. Serve in tall glasses filled with ice and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Italy's World Cup teams have enjoyed recent successes even as plenty of drama always swirls around the squad. Whatever the outcome, Italians always enjoy a tasty Negroni cocktail.

Start withCampari Bitter Aperitivo (5484, $28.99), the vivid neon-red, quinine and herb based liqueur. For a perfect Negroni, mix 1 12 ounces Campari, 1 12 ounces gin and 1 ounce each of sweet and dry vermouth in an ice-filled shaker. Pour into a rocks glass and serve with an orange garnish.

While relatively new to the World Cup stage, the Adriatic nation of Croatia still fields a highly competitive side. In this year's opening match, Croatia lost to host Brazil after a highly controversial penalty call.

But there's no sense crying over bad calls. Instead, enjoy a glass of delicious Croatian wine. Try the engaging 2012 Kozlovi, Malvasia, Croatia (Luxury 46806; $29.99), an unoaked white offering peach and apple aromas with floral notes. Crisp-apple and ripe-peach flavors balance with fresh acidity and mouthwatering mineral notes through the elegant, dry finish. Highly recommended.

Dave DeSimone writes about wine for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

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