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How Cachaça is Made
Cachaças Available Outside Brazil & Prices
Caipirinhas by the PItcher
Classic Quentão Recipe
Cachaça as a Marinade & Other Uses
for the Connoisseur
"Best " Cachaça?
Other Names for Cachaça
Cachaça is often called by the misnomer "rum" but, while most rums are made from molasses (and a very few directly from sugar cane juice similar to cachaça), Brazilian cachaça is really not a "rum" in the traditional sense but, rather, a uniquely Brazilian product with a distinctive aroma and taste that differs greatly from most rums.
Most Brazilians commonly refer to cachaça as pinga. Brazilians who drink cachaça pure, straight and unmixed (pura) will often purposefully spill a few drops for the saints before imbibing. The first shot of any cachaça imbibed straight (pura) is often referred to as the guia (guide) as it is the one that clears the path and leads the way for all the shots that will certainly follow.
Brazil produces about 2 billion liters of cachaça annually and exports about 400 million liters, leaving approximately 1.6 billion liters for domestic consumption—about 11 liters (3 gallons more or less) for every man, woman and child in Brazil!
No one knows for sure who first began making cachaça but the earliest report dates to about 1610 in the state of Bahia (then a Portuguese captaincy). Many believe that cachaça production began soon after the introduction of sugarcane into Brazil––sometime around 1550 or less than fifty years after Cabral "discovered" Brazil. Whether accidentally or on purpose, sugarcane juice was allowed to ferment thereby producing alcohol. Eventually, some brilliant (and obviously thirsty) soul realized that distilling the fermented cane juice made it a more potent potable and, therein, cachaça was born. In the early days, cachaça was used medicinally as a component of healing plasters and other such folk remedies as well as providing a special treat for slaves during festivals and batuques (singing, drumming and dancing sessions).
In the days of sailing ships, the captains of many European and American vessels bound for India and elsewhere in the Far East, as well as those en route to the Pacific via the Straights of Magellan, would often stop at Rio de Janeiro for repairs, fresh water, reprovisioning and, as often as not, a supply of cachaça for their crew's "rum ration." This was the case with the very first English transportation of convicted "criminals" sent to Australia, which set sail from Portsmouth on May 13, 1787 and arrived at Botany Bay on January 20, 1788. In all, eleven ships were sent at this time in what became to be known as the "First Fleet." In an interesting twist of fate, the very first drunken party to take place on Australian shores by Europeans (some time in February, 1788, shortly after their initial arrival) may have very well been fueled by Brazilian cachaça!
For centuries, cachaça was produced almost exclusively for slaves, natives, sailors and the lower classes. The Brazilian elite regarded cachaça as a poor man’s drink, preferring instead imported wines, whiskeys (scotches) and cognacs. In many ways, this is still the case, however, in recent years, cachaçarias (restaurant/bars featuring numerous different cachaças) have sprung up in most larger Brazilian cities. Many of these cachaçarias offer an extensive menu including hundreds of different marcas (brands).
Poor man’s drink or not, cachaça has become an integral part of Brazilian culture and its significance ranks right up there with soccer/football (futebol), carnival and samba as Brazilian national icons. In the past few years, cachaça has become an international sensation as the world has discovered the delights of the caipirinha. An example of this international phenomena is demonstrated by the fact that you can actually order a caipirinha in the Brasil Bar in (of all places) Zagreb, Croatia made with Pitú cachaça imported and distributed by a German company!
In hopes of boosting cachaça to the heights of acceptance, respectability and especially sales that Mexican tequila has enjoyed over the past twenty years or so, the Brazilian government has imposed several new cachaça regulatory measures. In 2001, then Brazilian president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, signed a decree that established cachaça as an official and exclusive name for Brazilian cane alcohol. Not specific enough said the world. So, in October, 2003, the then new Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ('Lula'), issued another decree specifying both the names cachaça and caipirinha as strictly Brazilian in origin. Brazil has also sent this issue to the World Trade Organization in the hope that the names cachaça and caipirinha will eventually gain intellectual property rights protection under international law. The Brazilian government is also currently involved in negotiations with the European Union in attempts to ensure that the name cachaça will only be applied to products of Brazilian origin. This may be difficult to pull off since the Portuguese (a member in good standing of the European Union) produce their own version of cachaça from grapes. Stay tuned!
Whether or not a leavening agent is added, the sugarcane juice is fermented for from one to three days (depending upon the prevailing ambient temperature), then distilled at a steady temperature of approximately 90º C, cooled and filtered to remove any impurities. The first distillation batch is called cabeceira. It is very strong and often used to make liqueurs. The second batch is called cachaça boa and it is the batch that is sent on to be bottled or aged. The third batch is called água fraca and is often returned to the next batch. Most commercially available cachaças sold on the market are about 40 to 48% alcohol by volume or roughly about 80+ proof.
Much like brandy, most fine cachaças are aged in barrels of European or American oak or Brazilian amburana, cedar, freijó, garapa, balsa, vinhático, jequitibá or other native Brazilian woods. The aging process yields a cachaça with a smoother taste and (most often) a yellow or caramel color. The time that cachaça is aged varies depending upon the barrel size, type of the wood, relative temperature and humidity as well as the storage environment. Brazilian law stipulates that cachaça must be aged at least one year to be labeled 'aged'.
Cachaça is the primary ingredient in a caipirinha (pronounced => kai-pee-reen-yah), the national cocktail of Brazil as well as numerous other batidas (cachaça and fruit or fruit juice mixtures) as well as the cold weather drink quentão.
[ English ] —home page of the U.S. importer of Pitú Cachaça—e-mail for information about the Pitú distributor in your area.
[ Portuguese, Spanish & English ] —home page of
producer of 51 Cachaça.
[ English ] —U.S. importer of Ypióca Cachaça—click on your state for the Ypióca ("spirits") distributor in your area.
Note: Numerous U.S. states prohibit the shipment of any alcoholic beverage so ordering cachaça online or elsewhere is out of the question. Your local liquor store may carry cachaça. Call them and see if they do. If not, maybe they can order it for you!
Prices Outside Brazil
The price of a bottle of Pitú, 51 or Ypióca cachaça (the best for making a caipirinha) purchased at a retailer outside of Brazil varies widely and is dependent upon many different factors. For example, a 965 ml (almost one liter) bottle of 51 brand cachaça retails in many supermercados (supermarkets) in Brazil for about +/- R$5 (about USD$ 3.00+ at the current exchange rate). In the United States, this same bottle—after international and domestic transportation, federal taxes, distributor and retailer markups and local sales taxes—retails for about USD$ 20.00 ... or more! We've been told that, in Europe, the price jumps to around € 20 (euros) or more!
Classic Caipirinha (pronounced
=> kai-pee-reen-yah –– with the
The name caipirinha is derived from the Portuguese word caipira (hick, hayseed, country bumpkin, rube, etc.––essentially a Li'l Abner type) coupled with the -inha suffix (a diminutive denoting little or small) and can be variously translated as little hick, little hayseed, little country bumpkin, little rube, etc., etc. Again, like the word cachaça, there really is no translation for caipirinha (the drink) except caipirinha ... unless you prefer to call it a little hick, little hayseed, little country bumpkin, little rube, etc.. But most people would rather drink one that get hung up on the name. Cachaça is also the primary ingredient in numerous batidas (cachaça and fruit/fruit juice mixtures).
Nobody knows for sure exactly who made the first caipirinha or when. Many older Brazilians claim that the caipirinha was originally a folk remedy used to help alleviate the symptoms of colds and the flu and to soothe sore throats. Even today, many Brazilians are known to create a concoction of lime juice, cachaça and honey as a remedy for colds and flu. The use of ice is most certainly a modern innovation. We can only speculate that the use of sugar (or honey) that is one of bed rocks of the caipirinha was used to help the cachaça go down a little smoother because, after all, "a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down ..."
There is an old adage in Brazil: quanto pior a cachaça, melhor a caipirinha––the worse the cachaça, the better the caipirinha. Consequently, most "experts" believe it's best to use clear colored (white), non aged cachaça, essentially, the cheapest available. We agree! Therefore, the popular (and usually more readily available) Pitú, 51 or Ypioca brands are perfect for making a world class caipirinha.
A caipirinha must be made
with fresh lime to achieve an "authentic" taste. In Brazil, the very best
caipirinhas are made with limões galegos––what in the U.S.
is often referred to as a key lime. That's what we believe is best
too. The limão galego has a lighter lime odor and tastes
a little more acidic. The larger, more readily available, thick-skinned,
limes sold in the U.S., Brazil and elsewhere can certainly be used but
are not as good as key limes (limões galegos).
Recipe (also see observations & notes
and making caipirinhas by the pitcher)
In an old fashioned or (flat
bottomed) on-the-rocks glass, add:
by the Pitcher
Caipirinhas can certainly be made by the pitcher and we've known some Brazilians that make them that way. The important thing when doing this is to maintain the basic ratio of limes, sugar and cachaça. However, muddling can be a bit of a problem when working with this quantity. Some have been known to muddle everything in a metal pan using a very large diameter dowel rod—something at least twice the diameter of a broomstick. Be prepared for a real workout when working with this quantity. Muddling should be done pretty vigorously to release the lime oil in the peel. You also may want to consider gradually adding the sugar throughout the muddling process. After muddling, everything should be transferred to a pitcher before adding the cachaça, mixing thoroughly and, finally adding the ice if you so desire.
_When rum is substituted for cachaça it's called a caipirissima. When vodka is substituted for cachaça, it's called a caipirosca. There's even such a thing as a grapirinha made with Italian grappa, tropical fruit and sugar as well as a sakerinha or sakquêrinha made with Japanese sake or sakquêand either kiwi fruit and/or lime as well as the ever present sugar. We've also had reports that some folks are making a drink with half cachaça and half rum or vodka and using brown sugar. We're not sure what this should be called but it is not a totally authentic caipirinha, however, it will stretch your bottle of cachaça if you're having trouble finding a regular supplier in the US or elsewhere!
_For those who don't like the acidity of the classic, traditional caipirinha (made with fresh limes), tangerine or orange (including the peel) can be substituted, making for a sweeter, less acidic, albeit, not totally authentic caipirinha ... but very good! A hint on this one: because oranges and tangerines are naturally sweeter than limes, use less sugar unless you really need a sugar rush!
_Some have been known to add a few fresh mint leaves to the lime and sugar before (or after) muddling the mixture. It adds another level of flavor that is very refreshing.
_Caipirinha aficionados use only white cane sugar (made from sugarcane) when making a caipirinha, never beet sugar, raw sugar, brown sugar, etc.
_Slices or wedges? Most bartenders in both Brazil and elsewhere use lime wedges because they have them already prepared for other drinks. The only thing that can be said is that slices make the entire muddling process much easier.
_In Brazil, the sugar is of a finer granularity, similar to what is often called superfine sugar in the United States and elsewhere. It makes using the typical American sugar that has a "rougher" granularity a little more challenging but have patience. It just takes a little more mixing before you add the ice.
_Any type of liquid sugar––what American bartenders would call simple syrup––is never used in Brazil, which is, after all, the birthplace of the caipirinha.
_Many try to use frozen, concentrated limeade instead of muddling together fresh limes and sugar. We don't know what the resulting drink should be called but certainly not a caipirinha!
_American bartenders often use a combination of sweet and sour and simple syrup instead of muddling together limes and sugar. While it is certainly faster and less labor intensive, it does not produce a real caipirinha!
_Don't use your best crystal glasses for (literally) muddling in. The act of muddling is pretty vigorous so use a strong, cheap, glass glass.
_Brazilians have been known to muddle the lime and sugar in a pilão (mortar and pestle) before transferring the mixture to a glass and then adding the cachaça and ice.
_It's best to use a wooden muddler which can be purchased from many restaurant equipment supply stores. Alternately, use any wooden "thing" you have in the kitchen or even a piece of broomstick! After all, there's really nothing technically advanced about a muddler. Some restaurant equipment supply stores even have muddlers made from plastic which may prove easier to keep clean.
_51 brand cachaça distributes a packaged powdered caipirinha mix consisting of sugar and freeze dried lime juice that they claim produces a "natural taste". We're not sure what part of nature they're from to think that it tastes "natural" but we disagree! While using a caipirinha mix may be faster, it does not produce a real caipirinha!
_Some describe a caipirinha to the uninitiated as something akin to a sweet margarita. OK, for the uninitiated, that works!
However, more than a few Brazilian cachaça connoisseurs prefer cachaças that are aged for no more than a year or two. Why? Simply because the longer a cachaça is aged (in whatever type of wood), the mellower it becomes but the more it takes on the taste of the wood and the less it tastes like 'real cachaça'. There is some validity to this argument among many cachaça aficionados. The taste of 'real cachaça' is also the reason that fine, aged cachaças are not the best for making a really good caipirinha. In fact, using a fine, aged cachaça to make a caipirinha is almost a sacrilege that the cachaça gods would certainly frown upon.
state most famous for producing the very finest cachaças
in Brazil is Minas Gerais––especially the area around the city of Salinas.
According to many knowledgeable cachaça aficionados, the very finest
commercial brand of cachaça in Brazil is Anísio Santiago
produced by Fazenda Havana in Salinas, Minas Gerais. Anísio Santiago
was known as Havana until 2001 when the name was suddenly, unexpectedly
and unceremoniously usurped and legally trademarked in Brazil by an imported
Cuban rum. Much to their dismay, it appears that the folks at Fazenda Havana
never thought about or got around to trade marking the Havana name
in Brazil! Oops! You'll also find that Anísio Santiago is
usually the most expensive brand of cachaça in Brazil, costing a
whopping R$ 150 to R$ 200 or more for a one liter bottle or up to R$ 30
or more for a single shot in any bar that stocks it!
Fazenda Havana began producing cachaça in 1943 and legend has it that, in the early days, the workers were paid in cachaça rather than money and, in turn, sold their 'wages' on the open market. This unofficial system of distribution and marketing remained in place until around 1950 when Fazenda Havana went commercial. Many consider Fazenda Havana to have been the catalyst in the transformation of the area in and around the city of Salinas into the cachaça mecca of Brazil.
This is only small listing of all the cachaças available in Brazil. Visit the Cachaça Express web site for listings of a variety of different cachaças from Minas Gerais and elsewhere in Brazil. It is an Brazilian online cachaça retailers but, unfortunately, only ships cachaça to addresses within Brazil.
There are also numerous artesanal (handcrafted or homemade) cachaças produced in tiny batches by small producers throughout Brazil. Many have become commercialized to a greater or lesser extent and some bear comical if not downright risqué names including Na Bunda, Na bundinha, Na Xoxota, Xixi de Virgem, Xixi Chupa Cabra, Xoxota Doce and many, many more. There are also many commercially available artesanal (handmade / handcrafted) cachaças that bear no brand name whatsoever––maybe only the name of the fazenda (farm) that produced it.
Many Brazilian cachaça aficionados purchase newly made, un-aged cachaça from artesanal producer friends, neighbors or acquaintances and, in turn, age it in their own small, wooden kegs at home for personal consumption. Often, they only age this cachaça for a few months (at most) but even such a short aging period produces a smoother, mellower tasting cachaça.
There are a lot different methods various people recommend to test the quality of any cachaça. Some say to shake a closed bottle and watch the bubbles that form at the top. If the bubbles are visible for more than 30 seconds, it's a not good cachaça. Others tell you to pour a little in a glass, swirl it around a bit and carefully look at the coating on the glass. If it looks more like fine oil than water, then, it's a good cachaça. Even others tell you to pour a little in a glass, empty it all out, let it dry completely and, then, smell the glass. If it doesn't smell, then, it's a good cachaça. Still others recommend pouring a little in your hands, rubbing them together, cupping your hands and then closely smelling the aroma. Whatever.
these tests have some validity but the only true test of any cachaça
is to simply taste it for yourself. If you try one and it goes down like
the devil's own brew, don't buy it and don't drink it. It's probably best
for making caipirinhas,
as a component for a marinade or other uses.
the other hand, if it's smooth and pleasing to you, then, by all means,
imbibe. Remember that many cachaças are processed with herbs and/or
other flavoring components such as anise, various herbs and even tree twigs
with leaves (such as olive) and will have distinct after tones produced
by the flavoring component. Others are as smooth as drinking baby's milk
with no after tones whatsoever. Experiment. Try different brands. Find
the cachaças that taste best to you and stick with them.
20 — Volúpia
19 — GRM
18 — Seleta
17 — Abaíra
16 — Lua Cheia
15 — Mato Dentro
14 — Corisco
13 — Sapucaica Velha
12 — Indaiazinha
11 — Maria Izabel
10 — Piragibana
09 — Magnífica
08 — Armazém Viera
07 — Casa Bucco
06 — Boazinha
05 — Cladionor
04 — Germana
03 — Canarinha
02 — Anísio Santiago
01 — Vale Verde
1 shot (ounce) coconut milk
1 shot (ounce) whole milk
2 shots (ounces) cachaça
Sugar to taste
Shake or blend together and serve alone or on the rocks
2 shots (ounces) pineapple juice
2 teaspoons lemon juice
4 shots (ounces) cachaça
2 teaspoons of simple syrup or sugar to taste
1 cup crushed ice
Shake/blend the ingredients in a shaker/blender and strain into a glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with pineapple wedges. Serves 2
2 shots (ounces) cachaça
4 ounces fresh chopped mango
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup crushed ice
Place all ingredients into a blender. Blend well, pour into a wine glass
2 shots (ounces) cachaça
5 to 7 very ripe strawberries (depending upon size)
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup crushed ice
Place all ingredients into a blender. Blend well, pour into a wine glass
1 ounce orange juice
2¼ ounces mango juice
¾ to 1 shot (ounce) cachaça
Blend together, pour over crushed ice in a large glass, stir and serve
¾ to 1 shot (ounce) cachaça
2 ounces pineapple juice
¼ ounce simple syrup or sugar to taste
1 dash lime juice
1 "chunk" of passion fruit
Combine ingredients in a blender. Pour into a large glass over crushed ice
2 bananas (ripe)
1 cup of cachaça
½ cup condensed milk
½ cup ice
Place the bananas, cachaça, condensed milk and ice into a blender and blend well. Pour into a large glass
2 fresh ginger (gengibre) roots peeled and cut into thin slices
2 large red apples (maças) with the peel, cored and cut into cubes
1.1 pound (about 4 cups / ½ kilograms) white sugar
10 whole Cloves
5 Cinnamon sticks
2 cups (16 oz / 500 ml / ½ liter) cachaça
4 cups (32 oz / 1 liter) water
—Put the ginger, apple and the sugar into a deep pan, constantly stir and cook slowly under low heat until everything caramelizes to a dark brown color
—Add the cloves and the cinnamon sticks and mix a bit more
—Remove the pan from the burner and mix in the 2 cups of cachaça. The caramelized sugar mixture will harden when the cachaça is added
—Return the pan to the burner and cook slowly until the cachaça is mixed with the sugar
—Add the 4 cups of water and boil slowly for about 15 minutes
—Since the boiling process eliminates much of the alcohol, you can add more cachaça before serving if you want your quentão a little "hotter"
—Serve in mugs and garnish with orange or lemon slices or peel
_As with the caipirinha, most 'experts' believe it's best to use clear colored (white), non aged cachaça, essentially, the cheapest available. The popular (and usually more readily available) Pitú, 51 or Ypioca brands are perfect for making quentão.
_Some boil orange and lemon peel in the ginger, apple and sugar mixture, while others may also use one or two bay leaves (folhas de louro) and/or ground black pepper (pimento do reino em pó)
_Some people strain the mixture before serving to eliminate the bits and pieces of cloves, etc. while others do not
There's no real recipe or secret involved here. For example, when using raspberries, buy two to four pint containers of raspberries and loosely place them in a covered glass jar and completely immerse the raspberries with cachaça. Tightly cover or seal the jar and let it stand at room temperature for two to four weeks. Don't worry. No mold, bacteria, gunk or other crud is going to be able to live much less grow in there!
With raspberries, for example, you will gradually see the cachaça take on a beautiful red color as the raspberries themselves turn a sickly, anemic looking white! After the two to four weeks, strain the raspberry carcasses (or other fruit) from the cachaça and throw it away. It is good for nothing and tastes HORRIBLE ... really HORRIBLE! With pineapple, you can use the outer skin (husk) that you would otherwise throw away ... no kidding! It's perfect!
You can also easily turn any flavored cachaça you have made into a sweet apéritif by making a calda (sweet, thin syrup) and adding it to your cachaça liqueur. Do this by first adding one to two cups of sugar to two to three cups of boiling water and allow it thoroughly dissolve, then, lower the heat and allowed the liquid to reduce by half –– until it is a thin syrup. When reduced, cool and add this calda to your cachaça liqueur, shake or mix well and enjoy! It's perfect for the ladies.
Many Brazilians also use cachaça as a 'pickling agent' or preservative instead if vinegar for all types of fresh pimenta (peppers). And, of course, because it is essentially pure alcohol, cachaça also has medicinal applications such as disinfecting cuts and scratches! In addition, many Brazilian manufactured cars are designed to run on alcohol or have "flex" engines, which can operate on either gasoline or alcohol. Cachaça could probably even be used to fuel such a car in a pinch ... although we've never heard of anyone doing so ... yet.