Cachaca: Learning More about Brazilian Rum

Brazilian RumWhile Brazil is famous for many sites and natural wonders like the Amazon rainforest, Sugarloaf Mountain, and a host of stunning beaches, it’s also known for being a pretty amazing place to party. After all, this is the nation that’s renowned for its barbeque, Carnival celebrations, and of course, thongs. Brazil is also the country that invented delicious Cachaca rum, which you can have at any of these aforementioned events and attractions.

Due to the wonders of manufacturing and shipping, however, you don’t have to be in Brazil to enjoy a stiff drink of Cachaca or a tasty cocktail with the famous rum. Unless you’re far removed from a major urban center, you should be able to pick up a bottle of Brazil’s legendary spirit at a liquor store near you.

But, you may be asking, what makes Cachaca so special? And what kind of drinks can you make with it? Isn’t ordering a rum and Coke at your favorite pub pretty much the same thing? No, no it isn’t.

Chachaca’s Background

Cachaca is one of Brazil’s oldest and most famous goods, due to the fact that it has been produced in the beautiful nation for several hundred years. Although it’s not known who specifically came up with the spirit―no, it wasn’t Captain Morgan―it’s believed to have been invented in the early 16th century.

The historical consensus seems to be that Cachaca was first discovered by Portuguese settlers in Brazil, and that the drink was given to slaves who were forced to work at sugar cane plantations. In fact, it’s believed that some plantation owners gave Cachaca to slaves as a type of reward. Over the decades, as methods to produce Cachaca were improved, the alcoholic drink became more and more popular and interwoven into Brazilian culture.

Today, Cachaca is not only considered a national drink but, due to its popularity in Brazil and beyond, manufacturing the beverage has become a huge industry. As a case in point, there are thousands of Cachaca producers in Brazil, including several major manufacturers like Cachaca 51 and Pitu. According to recent studies, it’s estimated that Brazilian drinks more than 300 million gallons of Cachaca per year!

What’s another nation where Cachaca is pretty popular? In 2008, the world’s top importer of Brazilian rum was Germany. Go figure.

Since money still does a great deal of talking these days, several Brazilian governments have passed regulations protecting the nation’s Cachaca manufacturers and the use of the name “Cachaca.” Now that’s how you know a beverage is really popular.

Oh, and how is Cachaca pronounced? If you’re ever in Brazil and you don’t want to sound like a completely clueless tourist when you order it, Cachaca sounds like “ka-sha-sa.” Not “ka-ha-ka.”

How Cachaca Is Made

Although Cachaca is commonly referred to as a rum, in fact, it’s not the same as the popular spirit. Cachaca is made from fermented and distilled sugar cane juice. Most rum, on the other hand, is made with molasses, which is a bi-product of sugar cane.

Cachaca can be made relatively quickly; however, Brazilian legislation says it must be aged for at least one year before it can be sold. Now if you’re just making it for yourself, and don’t care what it tastes like, then that’s another story.

Like other types of hard alcohol, not all Cachaca tastes the same, as there are different ways to produce and age the liquor. For example, some Cachaca might be aged in a cedar barrel, and another distiller might age it in a barrel that’s made of imburana. This can affect the taste and color.

In addition, not all producers age Cachaca for one year and then ship it out on the market. Some Cachaca can be aged for many years, which typically enhances the flavor and, yes, the price tag. So, just as with an older bottle of single malt Scotch, be prepared to spend a pretty penny for a luxury bottle of Cachaca.

The Caipirinha

Another reason Cachaca has risen to international fame is because of the Caipirinha. The ice cold and refreshing beverage is Brazil’s national cocktail and has been blowing the minds of drinkers for decades.

The Caipirinha is made with a stiff helping of Cachaca, a couple teaspoons of sugar, lime slices, and ice. First, you place the sugar and lime in a rocks glass, and then mix it well with a mudder (that’s the thing you’ve seen bartenders use). Then you add the Cachaca and some crushed ice. Now if that doesn’t sound like a drink that’s perfect for the beach, what does?

Of course there are plenty of variations on the Caipirinha, as some recipes call for simple syrup, fruit juice, or even white wine. If it doesn’t come with Cachaca, however, it’s not the same thing.

For example, the Caipirinha de Uva has the same ingredients as the classic drink, except it’s also made with some slightly sweet wine like Riesling. In Portuguese, uva means grape. Why Portuguese? That’s what they speak in Brazil. Oh, and speaking of language, how is this delicious cocktail pronounced? “Kai-pee-reen-ya.” Enjoy.