Cachaça 101: Earn Gold Medals for Your Summer Games Promotions
If you’re planning Rio 2016 Olympic Games promotions – and you should be – you need the right cocktails made with the right spirit. That spirit is cachaça (pronounced “ka-shah-sah”), the most popular spirit in Brazil and the third most consumed spirit in the world. It is, of course, the star ingredient in the Caipirinha (pronounced “kai-pee-reen-yah”), Brazil’s national cocktail. That makes cachaça the best way to honor and celebrate this year’s Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil.
What You Need to Know
Making a good promotion a great, memorable promotion comes down to the details. Obviously your Rio 2016 promotions will involve airing the Olympic Games on your televisions, Olympic and sports-specific themed items, and cachaça cocktails. But unless you actually know about cachaça your cocktail promotions are in danger of falling flat. So, this is what you need to know:
- While the experts have yet to credit a specific person for the creation of cachaça, it’s believed that a Portuguese colonizer came up with the process for creating the sugarcane spirit in the 1530s.
- Cachaça has evolved, and most of that evolution has come in production methods, experimentation with different woods for aging, aging times, and marriages between different artisanal styles.
- Some producers use American and French oak to age their cachaça, but there are also expressions aged in barrels made of woods indigenous to Brazil, like Brazilian zebrawood.
- Cachaça is not the same as rum. Whereas rum can be produced anywhere in the world and tends to be made from molasses, cachaça is produced from fermented sugarcane juice.
- It must be produced in Brazil.
- Cachaça comes in at an ABV of 38 to 48 percent.
It’s that point about rum that you really need to understand. Using rum in place of cachaça in cocktails that call for the Brazilian spirit is a detriment. Cachaça is funky and unlike anything most Americans have tasted. It’s not a good idea to substitute it with rum.
Skip the Industrial Stuff
In a very general sense there are two types of cachaça being produced in Brazil: industrial and artisanal. Drill down and you’ll find different styles of cachaça: unaged, or white or silver, and aged, or gold. Delve deeper and you’ll discover interesting versions of cachaça, like artisanal barrel-aged expressions. Not only do artisanal distillers produce the premium cachaças that will wow your guests, they tend to be concerned about sustainability and their impact on the environment. These days, people are looking for brands that are committed to responsible, sustainable business practices.
Avuá (pronounced “ah-vwah”) has quickly become a favorite among bartenders, including July 2016 Nightclub & Bar Bartender of the Month Rodger Gillespie. The Prata expression is rested in stainless steel. The result is a lush, crisp and fruity cachaça with notes that will likely remind you of premium tequila. Amburana, on the other hand, is aged in Amburana wood native to Brazil, imparting herb, spice, juicy dark berry, and savory notes. Meant to be sipped, Amburana also makes incredible cocktails. Avuá Oak is aged for up to 24 months in French oak casks that previously held white wine. Perfect for sipping or making tropical cocktails, expect vanilla and butterscotch on the palate. While it hasn’t been released yet, be on the lookout for Avuá Tapinhoã, a cachaça aged in barrels made of incredibly rare tapinhoã wood. Avuá sources its sugarcane from a family-owned single farm estate committed to sustainable energy practices. The cane is grown free of pesticides, cut by hand, and run through a wheel that is powered by water.
Leblon produces premium artisanal cachaça and has won several awards. At the San Francisco World Spirit Competition, for instance, Maison Leblon took home 9 Gold Medals over the course of 9 consecutive years. This producer is well known for their dedication to being green. Leblon gives all of their discarded sugarcane tops and leaves to local farmers to be used as feed for livestock, heats the water in their stills with exhausted sugarcane after it has been pressed, breaks down the residual distillation liquid naturally in a pond on the distillery’s property, and further minimizes their waste by adding some of the byproducts they produce to the fertilizer for their sugarcane fields. As with Avuá, Leblon cuts their sugarcane by hand. Showing their artisanal approach to production, Leblon is aged for 6 months in French oak casks that were used to age XO Cognac. As with many cachaças, it’s difficult to describe Leblon. Some say the aroma is musty and funky, and that the taste is reminiscent of agave. You’ll just have to taste it for yourself!
Last but in absolutely no way least, we have Novo Fogo. The cachaças Novo Fogo produces are stunning. Their Silver is rested in stainless steel for 12 months and features banana and floral notes on the nose. The aroma carries through to the palate, but is balanced by sea salt and sweet red pepper. Chameleon is aged for one year in American oak barrels and is described by Novo Fogo as “the bartender’s friend.” Barrel-Aged allows Novo Fogo to show off their innovation as it is aged in repurposed American oak barrels that the distillery disassembles, sands, and toasts again. The earthy Tanager is aged in repurposed oak barrels and then finished in Brazilian zebrawood, or arariba. The zebrawood imbues the liquid with a red tint. Novo Fogo also occasionally releases Single Barrel expressions, cachaças produced from a barrel that imparts such unique attributes that the distillery labels it Private Reserve. The distillery and sugarcane plantation are organic certified and zero-waste, and their cachaças are USDA organic certified and 100% natural. The sugarcane is single-estate, harvested by hand, and produced entirely on site.
Make Delicious Cocktails
Now that you have details to share with your guests and entice them into trying cachaça, it’s time to make cocktails! You can’t go wrong with any of the following recipes, so get behind the bar and start building. By the time Rio 2016 comes around – August 5, by the way – you’ll be a cachaça pro and ready to announce your Olympic Games promotions.
Flying Down to Rio
Created by Natalie Jacob, Bartender, The Archer, New Jersey
- 1.5 oz. Avuá Amburana Cachaça
- 0.5 oz. Banana liqueur
- 1 oz. Pineapple Juice
- 0.5 oz. Orange Juice
- 0.75 oz. Coconut Cream
Add all ingredients to shaker, dry shake, and dump into snifter. Fill glass with crush iced and mound at top, garnish with grated nutmeg, pineapple leaves, and a parasol.
Created by Sam Treadway, Owner and Bartender, Backbar and Ames St Deli & Study Restaurant, Massachusetts
- 1.25 oz. Avuá Prata Cachaça
- 0.75 oz. Lustau Fino Sherry
- 0.5 oz. House lime syrup
- 0.5 oz. Fresh pineapple juice
- 3 basil leaves
Shake all ingredients with 3 basil leaves. Double strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with lime wheel, basil leaf and 3 drops of sesame oil on the basil leaf.
Rings of Gold
Created by Lauren Klemm, Bartender, Ciros Speakeasy, Tampa
- 1.5 oz. Avuá Amburana Cachaça
- 0.75 oz. Amontillado Sherry
- 0.75 oz. Amaro Nonino
- 3 drops of Bittermens Burlesque Bitters
Stir all ingredients and served up with an orange twist.
- 2 oz. Leblon Cachaça
- 1/2 Lime, cut into wedges
- 2 tsp. Superfine sugar or 1 oz. Simple syrup
Muddle the lime and sugar in a shaker. Fill the shaker with ice and add Leblon Cachaça. Shake well and serve in a rocks glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.
Leblon Cucumber Jalapeño Caipirinha
- 2 oz. Leblon Cachaça
- 2 Thin slices of English cucumber
- 1 Lime wedge
- 0.25-inch Slice of jalapeño
- 0.75 oz. Agave nectar
Muddle the jalapeño, lime, cucumber and agave in a shaker. Fill the shaker with ice and add Leblon Cachaça. Shake well and serve in a rocks glass. Garnish with cucumber wheel.
Leblon Pomegranate-Champagne Punch
- 1.5 cups Leblon Cachaça
- 2 bottles chilled Brut champagne
- 1.25 cups Pomegranate juice
- 0.5 cups Simple syrup
Combine the Leblon Cachaça, champagne, and juice in a punch bowl. Add enough simple syrup to sweeten to taste. Garnish with lemon wheels and pomegranate seeds, and add a large block of ice.*
For block of ice:
To make ice block, freeze water in a plastic tupperware container overnight. Turn container upside-down, and run warm water over the bottom of the container until the ice slides out.
Novo Fogo Caipirinha
- 2 oz. Novo Fogo Silver Cachaça or Novo Fogo Barrel-Aged Cachaça
- Half a lime
- 1.25 tbsp sugar
Remove the white pith from the lime and discard it. Cut the remaining lime in slices; toss them into the glass. Muddle them with sugar in the glass. Fill the glass with ice. Add cachaça and pour everything into a shaker. Give it a go; pour everything (including the ice) back into the same glass.
- 2 oz. Novo Fogo Silver Cachaça
- Half of a lime, sliced and trimmed of pith
- Half a lemon, sliced and trimmed of pith
- 0.5 oz. Agave nectar
- Northwest IPA for floating
Add the first 3 ingredients to a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a glass over fresh ice, and float with a Northwest IPA.
- 1.5 oz. Novo Fogo Silver Cachaça
- 1.5 oz. Orange liqueur
- 0.5 oz. Lemon juice
- 2 dashes Scrappy’s Cardamom Bitters
- 2 oz. Chilled Hefeweizen
- Lemon peel for garnish
Add the first 4 ingredients to a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake until chilled. Strain it into a tall glass over fresh ice, add beer and garnish with lemon peel.