What Is Cachaça? Should I Drink It?

Capirinha with tomato and lemon and cachaça

Caipirinha, what a beautiful samba bobbin’ glass of joy. Cachaça is the mysterious key ingredient.

I’m well aware that caipirinha and its alcoholic better-half cachaça, is lagging far behind tequila and rum on global rankings; however, it deserves more.

What exactly goes into a caipirinha, and can you become a caipirinha fan?

You may need a little guidance because, occasionally, newbies can suffer. Lucky for you, I have suffered for you and can orientate you through the world of cachaça. You will be a happy cachaçeira (a drinker of cachaça or drunkard in Portuguese) and return each year (week, weekend, go on … every day after Mondays) for more.

Let’s start at the beginning; a true caipirinha will have just three ingredients. Silver cachaça (not gold), sugar and lime. Shake them up good and pour over a glass of ice.

Drink with caution as you can’t taste the alcohol over the sweeeeet goodness of the fruit and the sugar…

Recife old town
Recife old town, Pernambuco

 


What is Cachaça and Do I Want to Drink It? 

Cachaça is a spirit that derives from sugar cane. It is a relative of its Caribbean cousin, rum. They are both products of the sugar cane.

But then they go their separate ways.

Rum and cachaça vary as the first is a by-product of sugar made from the sticky, syrupy molasses that are left behind once the sugar is removed from the sugar cane juice.

Meanwhile, cachaça is made from sugar cane juice, which is refined and distilled until it transforms into our friend alcohol.

 

Did You Know?

Enslaved Brazilians who worked in sugar mills invented cachaça. There are many other incredible Brazilian assets like capoeira, feijoada, and the national drink, which are also attributed to the ingenuity of enslaved Brazilians.

Cachaça de limão by Footloose Lemon Juice

Should I Drink Cachaça? 

As for the latter part of the question, it is up to your boldness whether you want to drink it! I personally believe that to enjoy a caipirinha, you only need to ask the bartender about the brand used and line your stomach well.

You need to pace yourself because cachaça can be up to 48% alcohol. It is not for amateurs. I also happily endorse Caipiroskas. Everything a caipirinha is, just substituting cachaça for vodka.

Vodka is a taste that goes with anything; that is, it has no taste, just the hum of the alcohol. You can mix up exotic flavours to your heart’s content.

Cachaça is different because it has a pretty darn strong taste that can rally up your insides. Having said that, it can be beautiful with the right flavours. Let’s take a brief review of where you can find cachaça that you can stomach.

Onward and upwards into the depths of cachaça chemistry.


How Sugar Cane Becomes Alcohol 

Let’s review the steps to arrive at cachaça, beginning with sugar cane.

Harvest

Sugar grows in tropical countries, usually close to the equator. The sweet goodness of sugarcane is harvested from June to October. Cachaça is a winter baby (Southern Hemisphere seasons) as sugar cane must be juiced straight after cutting; cachaça is also born in these months.

Fermentation

Add yeast to the mix, and in a mere 24 hours, alcohol is born.

Distillation

Basically, heating the liquid until it evaporates, then cooling it so it condenses again. Complicated sciency stuff.

Aging

Everyone knows things get better with age.

Silver cachaça is left to age in stainless steel containers. This is why it stays clear, adopting the name ‘silver’ cachaça. Jequitibá is actually one wood that doesn’t transfer color, but it does flavor and, thus, remains in the silver category.

Special cachaças are aged in Brazilian indigenous wood barrels. Is there anything more exotic?

Trees with names like: Araúva, Balm, Peanut, garapeira, umburana, balsam.

Maracaípe in Pernambuco, Brazil

How to Become a Cachaçeiro

In Brazil, if you drink generously, you are a cachaçeiro. It doesn’t matter if you don’t touch cachaça. This is a national drink with a reputation. Anyone who drinks it becomes a cachaçeiro. Friends, I believe we are ready to step into that role.

The 22nd President of Brazil Janio Quadros once said bebo-o porque é liquido, se fosse sólido comê-lo-ia or “I drink it because it is liquid, if it were solid I would eat it”.

Amen to that.

Jânio Quadros, the 22nd president of Brazil, was frequently thought of as a cachaçeiro. He renounced his presidential position in a mere 6 months, and some attribute part of the demise into dictatorship to his actions. As he fled his position he exclaimed his greatest last statement, “I am being haunted by foreign occult forces.”

Alrighty pal, we understand that cachaça just beats the presidency; don’t sweat it.

Step one to cachaçeirism: pinga com mel

Pinga is simply a countryside nickname for cachaça. Pinga com Mel is a gold cachaça mixed with honey. It is like shots of sherry in a baby’s milk bottle (I don’t endorse that, but one day, maybe I will as a mum having a breakdown).

Perfect for chilly evenings and if you don’t want the fresh, tangy twang of a cocktail. 3 shots for me, and the night is over. Shots cost 5 Brazilian Real, which is about $1.50 USD.

Cheapest night ever.

Step 2 to cachaçeirism: cachaça com milho 

Milho, which means corn in Portuguese, is a wide staple food in Latin America in general. Unlike sweetcorn we have in the UK, this vegetable is not sweet, but has a savory flavor often served with melted butter on the beach.

Mixing it with cachaça is a delectable balance. Almost earthy and oh-so countryside, this pale yellowy shot can go well in the cold and warm evenings and will whizz you right back to the farmland reminiscing.

Step 3 to cachaçeirism: cachaça com Jambu 

This is a cachaça infused with an Amazonian herb that many indigenous believe has medicinal properties. As you drink, it sets off a tingly sensation in your lips and throat. Something like the sensation of Carmex or those lipglosses that have bee-sting in them. It may sound frightening, but fear not, you will feel aliiiive with this drink.

This is a gold cachaça, and I like it with pineapple and lemon juice to soften the harshness.

Aprazível in Rio de Janeiro do an amazing cachaça com jambu cocktail. Read about it in 5 Restaurants in Rio de Janeiro for Traditional Cuisine.

Step 4 to cachaçeirism: Salinas or Seleta cachaça

The final spirit on the list is both a brand and a city. Salinas is renowned for cachaça production. Seleta is also a solid choice. This is a better option than a cachaça called 51.

Steer clear of 51; otherwise, you will not leave your bed the next day. 51 costs pennies to make. For that, it adorns most bar shelves around Brazil and the world.

Pay a fraction more for a good brand like Salinas or Seleta. It will save you from a head-splitting hangover.

All the steps you need to become a cachaçeiro!

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