Cachaça is a little late to the party. But when you've got something this good to bring to the table, why be a stickler for timeliness? The most popular spirit in Brazil, the rest of the world has just begun discovering it, with more cachaça brands available than ever before. To make it, cane juice is pressed straight out of raw sugarcane stalks then fermented and distilled. Because some rums are made the same way, cachaça is often called the Brazilian rum. It owes its grassy, herbaceous flavor to the sugarcane stalks.
Cachaça is a fresher spirit than rum because it's made from sugarcane instead of molasses. As such, it boasts a distinct flavor that ranges from medicinal to chemical depending on the quality. You might notice herbal and fruity notes with vanilla undertones or even a peppery oak finish.
The History of Cachaça:
The Portuguese played a large part in influencing sugarcane liquor when they brought sugarcane cuttings from Madeira to Brazil during the 16th century. On the Madeira islands, sugarcane liquor is known as aguardente de cana liquor, while it's referred to as cahaça in Brazil. Either way, it's the same beverage that typically ranges from 38 to 48 percent ABV. More than a billion liters of the distilled sugarcane liquor is produced each year, but only 1 percent is exported to other countries.
Cachaça is also known as pinga, aguardente, caninha and many other names, but a spirit by any other name would still taste as sweet. Like rum, cachaça comes in two varieties, unaged and aged.
The unaged variety is often referred to as "white" or "silver" based on the color. Unaged cachaça is typically bottled immediately after the distillation process, although some producers allow it to age for up to one year in barrels for a smoother taste. As such, unaged cachaça tends to be cheaper and is perfectly suited to blending with other beverages for a nice tropical cocktail.
The aged variety is sometimes called "yellow" or "gold," and is generally seen as the "premium" variety. Dark cachaça is left in wood barrels for up to three years on average, although some ultra-premium cachaças stay in the barrels for up to 15 years. The spirit's flavors are largely dependent on the type of wooden barrel being used to age the cachaça, so you can find different flavor profiles across brands.
How to Drink It:
Cachaça is typically used in special cocktails, the most famous of which is the Caipirinha. Brazil's national cocktail is made with cachaça, sugar and lime. Simply muddle the sugar and fruit together and add the liquor. Pour into a single glass or a pitcher that can be served to a group. Ain't no party like a caipirinha party!