Cachaça is a clear alcohol made in Brazil.
Though it is often compared to brandy or grappa, which are made from grapes, it’s actually more like a form of rum, being made from sugar cane like rum is.
It is made from unrefined sugar cane juice that is allowed to ferment for about 3 weeks, then boiled down to a concentrate, distilled, filtered and then bottled
There are over 4,000 different brands in Brazil. Some brands are very rough and burning, others are smoother. Cachaca from Minas Gerais is considered by some people to be the best.
Most Cachaça is not aged, but some special versions are aged between 2 and 12 years in wood casks.
Most Cachaça is a bit rough and best used as a mixer.
The aged version is best drunk on its own, on ice. The traditional way to drink it is from a short, slim glass (a “martelinho”), and to gulp it all at once, as you would vodka. This avoids it burning the tip of the tongue. You can spritz it with a lemon wedge first, or eat rapadura candy between glasses.
Cachaça was popular with the poor in Brazil, and has now become the new in-drink with foodies in the developed world.
Classic drink: squeeze 1 lime wedge into a tumbler. Add a teaspoon of sugar to the juice, stir, then toss in the squeezed wedge. Add ice, then top with a measure of cachaça.
White rum, grappa.
70 to 80% alcohol, though the alcohol content in exported brands such as “Cachaca 51” and “Pitu” is only around 40%.
Can give a nasty headache.
Literature & Lore
Cachaça has been made from the 1530s onwards. Originally, it was made from liquid (“garapa”) left over after making brown sugar. The liquid would be boiled, and the foam skimmed off. The foam was called “Cagaça”, which became “Cachaça.” The drink was brown, because of the colour of the liquid it was made from.
It was at first given to slaves to drink, then others started to drink it. Over time, as other people started to drink it, it become as valuable as making sugar, so the process was refined, with production starting straight from sugar cane juice, rather than leftover byproducts.
Cachaça production interfered with the sale of more expensive alcohol imported from Portugal, so its production was banned in 1635 in Bahia, and then on 12 June 1744, throughout Brazil. Wide-spread production continued all the same.
Pronounced “ca-chass-ah”. The word means “burning water.”