Cachaça

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Bottle of Cachaça

Cachaça is the most popular distilled alcoholic beverage in Brazil, made from sugar cane juice; it differs from Caribbean rum which is prepared with molasses. The legal definition of cachaça says "cachaça is the product of the distillation of the fermented sugarcane juice, with alcohol strength between 38% and 48% by volume. Up to 6 gr per liter of sugar can be added".

Cachaça is the 3rd most important spirit in the world with 1.3 billion liters/year produced by year. Only 1.5% of this production is exported (mainly to Portugal, Paraguay and Germany). Outside Brazil cachaça is almost exclusively used as an ingredient to tropical drinks, being "caipirinha" the most famous.

There are two types of cachaça: handmade and industrial. Handmade cachaça are produced by thousands of small mills spread all over the country, being Minas Gerais state respected as the best source. Traditionally the fermentation agent is a corn flour called "fubá" and the distillation unit is a copper pot still. The cachaça comes out from the pot stills in 3 batches "head", "core" and "tail", most of the makers takes only the "core", discarding the othe two ones that have undesirable components. Then the Cachaça is either bottled or stored in wood barrels for aging. The aging of Cachaça is made in a great variety of Brazilian woods such as castanheira, umburana, jequitibá, ipá, grápia, bálsamo, amendoim, jatobá, guanandi, pau-brasil, cabreáva, tibiriá, garapeira, cerejeira and carvalho (oak) barrels. Handmade Cachaça makers usually bottle their own product, selling directly to the market (consumers, bars, restaurants, supermarkets, etc). Domestically, handmade Cachaças are mostly drunk straight by upper segments of consumers. Industrial cachaças are made by medium size and big mills mostly located in the countryside of the Sáo Paulo state. The industrial cachaça makers use column stills to process the fermented sugarcane juice ("continuous distillation process"). The product is then sold as a raw material to the Cachaça bottlers such as "51", "Velho Barreiro", "Tatuzinho", "Pitu", "21", etc. The bottlers manage the Cachaça in order to reach their standards by adding/removing components. Most of the time industrial Cachaças are not aged, being drunk straight by the lower segments of consumers.

History

Cachaça was invented by the first Portuguese settlers of Brazil, in the region around the town of Sáo Vicente, sometime between 1532 and 1548. Workers at local sugar mills first discovered that the sugarcane juice (garapa), cooked and left standing, would "sour" (ferment) and turn into a mild alcoholic beverage. The product, disparagingly named cachaça, was consumed by slaves, as a cheap substitute for the Indians' cauim. Soon someone had the idea of distilling it, and thus cachaça was born.

Cachaça distilleries multiplied through colonial Brazil during the 16th and 17th centuries. Portugal eventually took notice and, in order to protect the market for Portuguese-made grappa (bagaceira), tried several times to outlaw the manufacture and consumption of the new spirit. In 1756, after a century of failure to suppress it, the Crown gave up and levied a tax on Cachaça. This tax brought substantial revenue to the Treasury, and contributed to the reconstruction of Lisbon, which had been just devastated by an earthquake.

Currently there are more than 4,000 different brands of cachaça available in Brazil. Early in its history it was consumed mainly by Africans, peasants, and members of the lower class. As is often the case, elitists considered it a low drink, unfit for exclusivist bars and tables. However, like rock n' roll in the USA, the finer points of the product gained wider and wider appreciation, and it is now a very popular drink, considered by some to be in the same class as whiskey and wine. The most prized brands are produced in Sáo Paulo, Ceará, Pernambuco, and Minas Gerais. The Brazilian government and producer associations have recently acted to promote the export of cachaça.

Some cachaça that must be tasted:

  • Anisio Santiago
  • Artista
  • Germana
  • Canarinha
  • Piragibana
  • Taio

All of the above are produced in the whereabouts of Salinas - Minas Gerais, city called: cachaça´s world capital.

Drinking Cachaça

The Traditional way, in Minas Gerais, the home state of cachaça, is to drink cachaça is to sip it gently in a small glass (aprox. 50ml) tasting every bit. Unlike tequila, cachaça, also a strong liquor, is better tasted slowly. Some cachaça tasters usually let the drink linger inside the mouth in order of felling the retro-taste, an important feature of the well-made cachaça. An Alternative way to drink cachaça is to put its inside short and slim glass called martelinho ("little hammer"), and drink in one single shot. Often some lime juice is added to the cachaça. Bits of brown sugar cake (rapadura) are sometimes eaten between glasses.

Cachaça is more commonly consumed as caipirinha ("country girl"), a cocktail containing a crushed lime and sugar.

See also

Cachaça by André Ricardo Alcarde

External Links

YouTube video: Produção Cachaça de Qualidade - Parte 3