By: Eric Twardzik
April 18, 2021
Just as any clotheshorse will start to think of linen, silk, and tropical wool at the slightest hint of warmer weather, those who appreciate spirits may reach for rum the moment the first buds bloom. And though you’ll never catch me saying a bad word about rum (which for the record, can and should be enjoyed year-round), perhaps this is the season to get acquainted with another sugarcane spirit of note, cachaça.
Like rum, cachaça is distilled from sugar. But whereas most rums are made from molasses, cachaça is created from freshly fermented sugarcane juice. And most importantly, cachaça by law can only be made in Brazil, where it reigns as the national spirit.
However, describing cachaça as “Brazilian rum” doesn’t do it justice. Thanks to its freshly fermented status, this sugarcane spirit tastes far grassier, spicier, and funkier than what the typical rum drinker may be accustomed to, and is influenced by that word you’re more likely to hear from your oenophile friends—terroir.. It may take a little getting used to, but like any bold new flavor from truffles to uni, it becomes more appreciated with time.
Perhaps the easiest way to acquaint yourself with cachaça is to do as the Brazillians do, and whip up a Caipirinha. Brazil’s national cocktail is delightfully simple, calling on just sugar, lime, and of course, cachaça. Naturally, such a minimalist recipe creates a greater need for high-quality ingredients. I’m partial to Novo Fogo, whose organic cachaças are widely available in the U.S.
A great starting point is their silver cachaça, which is wild yeast-fermented and distilled in copper pot stills for greater character before undergoing a year-long rest in stainless steel tanks for just a bit of mellowing. It has a wonderfully funky, tropical nose and a mildly sweet palate that’s at once vegetal-earthy and citrus-bright, ending on a sharp, clean note that serves as its own palate cleanser. In lesser words, it’s a full-bodied but friendly representative of the category that proves the perfect gateway drug.
Though well-worth sipping alone, you may wish to experience it as a Caipirinha first by following the recipe below:
2 ounces cachaça
1 teaspoon sugar
1 lime, sliced into quarters
Add quartered lime and sugar to the bottom of a cocktail shaker and muddle. Add cachaça and ice, then shake for about ten seconds. Pour contents, without straining, into a chilled rocks glass and enjoy.
Paolo's Caipirinha at the BELMOND COPACABANA PALACE
Like the Locals: A massive Caipirinha in the city of Curitiba, Brazil.