After the Margarita came the Mojito, a white rum drink made famous by muddled mint leaves. Cocktail flavor experiences were finally out of the box for a few years until Mojito mixes started popping up on shelves. Now the Caipirinha, Brasil’s national drink is making huge inroads throughout the world all because of Cachaça, the primary ingredient which is a spirit distilled from sugar cane juice. United States import laws lump it together with Rum. But unlike Rum, which is usually made from molasses, Cachaça can only be made in Brazil from fresh cane juice aged in barrels made from exotic rainforest woods.
So this bone of contention between producers who want the name retained after it crosses U.S. borders is how I first learned about Cachaca at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. Brand ambassadors armed with 6 foot tall sugar cane staffs where handing out Legalize Cachaca buttons and beckoning us to the tasting room. Always a rebel with a cause, and ever on the lookout for a unique flavor experience, I was drawn in by the lively hands-on demonstration of how Cachaca is made. Here in a hotel normall staid conference room, they were hand pressing raw sugar cane pieces and extracting the juices into glasses for sniffing. Next a small copper pot still on the white clothed table was churning out the distillation. Straight, it’s wild with flavors that can be pulled in many directions. Mixed, I sampled concoctions that revealing flavors you would never imagine could come from sugar. Compared to buttoned down rum, Cachaca is more herbal…complex…wild!
A good and simple way to start enjoying this liquor is with the Leblon Caipirinha:
2 oz. Leblon Cachaça
2 tsp. Superfine sugar or 1 oz Simple Syrup*
Cut the lime into four wedges. Muddle the lime and sugar in a shaker. Fill the shaker with ice and add Leblon Cachaça. Shake vigorously. Serve in a rocks glass. Garnish with a slice of lime.
*1 packet of Splenda or Equal can be used in place of superfine sugar.
But don’t stop there! This evening I took a head trip down to Sao Paolo, without the jet lag:
The Kumquat Ginger Caipirinha
2 oz. Leblon Cachaça
Pinch of grated ginger
2 tsp. Superfine sugar or 1 oz. Simple Syrup
Cut five kumquats in half. Muddle the kumquat halves, ginger, and sugar in a shaker. Fill the shaker with ice and add Leblon Cachaça. Shake vigorously. Serve in a rocks glass. Garnish with a kumquat slice.
Have you gotten your Legalize Cachaca button yet?