Cachaça: Brazil's National Spirit

Cachaça:
Brazil's National Spirit

Cachaça (pronounced cah-sha-sa), a grassy and flavourful sugarcane spirit that can only be made in Brazil, gets something of a rum deal. While spirits drinkers are familiar with its close cousin, rum, and are embracing its many guises with gusto, cachaça is still relatively unknown.

We think it's time this wonderful spirit had its place in the sun. Discover its history, production and style below, as well as how you can make the perfect Caipirinha.

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How Cachaça is made

How Cachaça is made

Like its cousin rhum agricole, cachaça can only be made with sugar cane juice – the liquid collected from crushing fresh sugar cane. Only cane grown in Brazil can be used, and although there are no rules around what kind of still must be used, distillation must be done in a way that preserves the sugar cane's distinct flavour. Traditionally, cachaça is distilled to a much lower alcoholic strength than rum.

While most cachaça you find is unaged (labelled branca, white in English), the spirit can be aged in casks: oak is the most common material used, but distillers can also choose local hardwoods such as Amendoim bravo and peanut. Many cachaças are sweetened before bottling through the addition of sugar, and some are also given a darker appearance with caramel colouring.

Made from: Molasses Where: Globally Flavour: Caramel, sugars Other imagery: Molasses
Cachaça Styles

Cachaça Styles

Like any spirit, the ingredients, distillation, ageing and processing of cachaça all have an impact on its final flavour. Although the predominant flavour profile of cachaça, much like agricole rhum, is herbaceous and grassy, you will find this dialled up or down depending on the intensity the distiller is going for. Some spirits will be light and mild in flavour, others will be intensely herbal and fruity, clearly displaying the characteristics of the sugarcane variety used.

Most cachaça on the market has a small amount of sugar added post-distillation to create a sweeter style. Commonly this is less than 6g/l, and cachaça dosed with more than this is labelled as adoçada.

Made from: Sugar-cane Juice Where: Caribbean, especially Martinique, Guadeloupe and Réunion. Also Madeira. Flavour: Grassy and aromatic Fresh cane juice
History

History

Although the quality of cachaça has been on an upward trajectory since then, its reputation has had a slightly rockier journey. Until 2013 cachaça was mostly labelled as 'Brazilian rum', which confused consumers and deprived the spirit of its own identity. Since then, however, cachaça is gaining a deserved reputation worldwide, powered by a legion of more than 3,000 distillers across the country.

Most cachaça on the market has a small amount of sugar added post-distillation to create a sweeter style. Commonly this is less than 6g/l, and cachaça dosed with more than this is labelled as adoçada.

The Caipirinha

The Caipirinha

Cachaça is a versatile drink and you can use it in a wide variety of cocktails, particularly those in which you'd typically use a characterful unaged rum. The classic cachaça cocktail, and the cocktail most associated with its homeland Brazil, is the Caipirinha, which loosely translates as 'little country bumpkin'. To make one, you'll just need cachaça, lime, sugar and ice.

Ingredients

  • 50ml chilled cachaça
  • half a lime
  • 2tsp sugar
  • Ice cubes

Method

  • Cut the lime half into four wedges, and remove the ends and any pips/central pith.
  • Place the wedges in a sturdy rocks glass along with the sugar and muddle it all together, pressing out most of the juice from the lime.
  • Add the ice and the chilled cachaça. Stir and serve.

Alternatively, if you don't like drinking around the lime shells, strain your sugar and lime mixture into a clean glass before adding the ice and cachaça.