Is cachaça the perfect summer spirit?
The national drink of Brazil is a lighter, crisper kissing cousin to rum
July 5, 2016
It’s summertime, which comes with two certainties: the days get longer and cachaça will make its annual attempt at becoming the “it” drink of summer. It’s not like the spirit doesn’t have the chops, mind you. Cachaça, the national drink of Brazil, is a kissing cousin to rum, only instead of being made with the byproduct of sugar production—molasses and something called scummings—it takes its base from the fresh sugarcane juice before it’s processed. The result is a drink that’s lighter, more floral, and crisp—all things that make it a great foundation for summer cocktails. The classic presentation is the caipirinha (cachaça, sugar, lime), a drink whose very popularity has stunted cachaça from expanding its horizons—sort of like an ER-era George Clooney. But pair the spirit with a more nuanced mixture of citrus and spice in a cocktail and you end up in Michael Clayton territory—complex and unexpected.
If you’re ready to experiment with it, I’d suggest starting with a bottle of the widely available Cachaça 51 ($27). It’s the world’s second largest-selling spirit, and it’s serviceable in a 2002 Honda Civic sort of way. But if you want your first time to be special, you’d be better off seeking out the pricey but sublimely fresh Novo Fogo Silver ($62). It’s distilled in a traditional copper pot in small batches (the way single malt whisky is made) and produces a sublime spirit suitable for sipping on its own, one with notes of ripe bananas sprinkled with sea salt served on a bed of fresh-cut grass.
It’s pronounced KAH – sha – sa
not KAH – shak – a
The Drink: Club Rio
By: Micky Valens, bartender at Wildebeest & Hello Goodbye
2 oz cachaça
1 oz mango purée
1 oz fresh lime
½ oz ginger syrup
Spritz of Angostura bitters
Combine all ingredients except angostura bitters in a shaker, shake vigorously and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with lime
wheel on a pick and spray with angostura bitters for aromatics.
“A tropical libation that makes the palate dance. The spray of angostura bitters is what gives us the lingering aromatics of seasonal spices.”