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How to make the most of Carnaval this weekend

A user's guide to samba, cachaca cocktails, and more. 

 A parade participant struts her stuff at last year's Carnaval.

This Saturday and Sunday, Carnaval returns to the Mission for another outrageous weekend of festivities inspired by the spring celebrations in Brazil. So dust off your dancing shoes (and your skimpiest glitter-drenched outfit) so you can shimmy, imbibe, and grub like a pro. A little rusty? Here’s our inside tips to enjoying Carnaval. 

Brush up on your moves.
Learn the basics of the Brazilian dance from local master Raffaella Falchi at ODC’s Samba class. For beginners, the first class is free. Procrastinators: Learn to salsa during the festival at Havana Village Dance Pavilion, located on Harrison Street (at 21st). If you think you’ve mastered the steps, you can also sign up for a salsa competition at the pavilion. ODC Samba, Friday, 6:00–7:15 p.m., 351 Shotwell St., For more info click here.

Dress for success.
The occasion definitely calls for a flamboyant outfit, but be warned—S.F. Carnaval is often cursed by fog and rain, so the thong-clad end up literally freezing their butts off. The latest forecast is the typically cryptic low of 52, high of 61 degrees with partly cloudy skies. If you want to rock the sequined bra and underwear set, be sure to tuck a pair of sweatpants or a jacket in your purse so the chance of inclement weather doesn’t send you scurrying home.

Snag a good seat.
Arrive early on Sunday to stake out your space along the Parade’s route: It’s a loop from 24th and Bryant, west to Mission, down to 17th, and then back east into the festival area on Harrison Street. It starts at 9:30 am, so set your alarm. If you need some sleep to recover from Saturday and don’t want to stand on tiptoe just to snag a peek at the throng of dancers in the annual parade, S.F. Carnaval offers grandstand seating between 21st and 22nd on Mission. $30/person, $40/couple, purchase tickets here.

Sip something delicious.
Brazil’s favorite alcohol is cachaca, a rum-like liquor made from sugarcane juice. Slightly sweet on its own, it doesn’t need to be mixed with much—it’s most often enjoyed with just a bit of lime and extra sugar. Eugenio Jardim, the sommelier of Jardiniere, taught us how to dress our cachaca up a bit. He recommends the following mix for his "Brazilian Breeze":

2 oz. of Brazilian cachaca (he used Beleza Pura)

2 oz. of Limoncello

1 oz. of Combier (an orange liquor)

1 whole Meyer lemon

Combine all the ingredients with ice into a martini shaker, shake well, and pour over ice. Add 2 ounces of soda water, stir, and enjoy!

Chow down.
Weeding out something edible from festival fare can be tricky for a discerning foodie. Fortunately, S.F. Carnaval will host a small, select group of vendors this year. Whisk on Wheels will be serving up their new-Argentine style empanadas, and Pop Nation’s bringing vegan– and gluten–free popsicles. But fear not traditionalists, there will still be the standard offering of barbecue and churros.

S.F. Carnaval is May 26 and 27, 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM on Harrison Street between 16th and 23rd.