Call it cachaça (ka-SHAH-sa) if you’re talking about the most popular distilled alcoholic beverage in Brazil or the key ingredient in the killer summer cocktail caipirinha (kie-pur-YEEN-yah). Most rums are made with molasses, while cachaça is made with fermented sugarcane juice.
Technically, cachaça is a brandy in the aguardente family – a strong alcoholic beverage between 29-60% alcohol obtained by fermenting and then distilling a sweetened must (vegetables, fruit, grain or cane). Aguardente translates to “firewater” or “burning water”, but fear not, there will be some refreshing cocktails at the end of this post.
The production of cachaça began soon after the introduction of sugarcane into Brazil, around 1550. It’s hard to say whether the fermentation of the sugarcane was by accident or was the work of a thirsty spirit.
It’s similar to rum in the sense that you can find both unaged (white/clear) and aged (gold from the barrel aging) versions. Look for notes of fresh sugarcane, flowers, citrus and perhaps some vegetal notes like cucumber or celery in an unaged cachaça; an aged one might also give you oak, toast, vanilla or sweet baking spices.
2 oz. cachaça
1 tsp. sugar
1 lime, cut in chunks
muddle lime with sugar in a rocks glass, fill with ice, pour in cachaça and garnish with lime wedge
A fun way to mix up this drink is to add fruit. My favorite is strawberry, but you could also try mango, pineapple or passionfruit. If you wanted to be fancy, you could infuse the cachaça with your fruit/vegetable/herb of choice.
You can also find this version at L’Ecole.
2 oz. cachaça
1 oz. simple syrup
1 oz. lemon juice
2 pieces green bell pepper (each about the size of a quarter)
5 basil leaves
1 sugar cube
3 shakes salt
combine pepper, basil, sugar and salt in sturdy glass and muddle. add ice, cachaça, lemon juice and simple syrup and shake vigorously. do not strain. pour into a rocks glass, top with a splash of soda and garnish with a basil leaf.