Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cachaça - The Brazilian Tipple

Brazilians have been making it for over five centuries. Non-Brazilians often confuse it with rum. But it’s not rum. Cachaça (called cane spirit in South Africa, and, as far as I know, produced only in our two countries) is distilled from fermented sugar cane juice. Rum is made from molasses.
Cachaça emerges from the still as clear as water, and is often consumed without aging.
The really good stuff, though, is aged in wooden barrels, thereby acquiring a pale amber color and a smoothness that allows it to be sipped like fine brandy.
Brazil produces 1.5 billion liters (390 million gallons) of cachaça a year. There are a staggering number of brands.
And it’s so damned good that we drink almost all of it ourselves.
Mixed with a fruit juice, it’s called a batida. That also denotes a car crash.
And is what you’ll feel like you’ve been through should you overindulge.
Batidas come in as many varieties as there are fruits, everything from coconut to kiwi.
When it’s mixed with crushed limes and sugar we call it a caipirinha, Portuguese for “a little country girl”.
Now the good news for those of you who aren’t lucky enough to live here: the stuff is beginning to pop up in retail outlets in North America, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
If you manage to snag a bottle, here’s my wife’s sure-fire recipe for the world’s best caipirinha:
  1. Fill a glass with ice, pour in a healthy shot of cachaça and let it sit while you make the other preparations.
  2. Choose a lime with a very smooth skin. (They’re the ones with the most juice.) Wash it thoroughly and cut off the ends. (They tend to be bitter.)
  3. Slice it thin, put it into the bottom of a glass and add sugar to taste, usually two to four heaping teaspoons. (You can also used artificial sweetener.)
  4. Take something you can use as a pestle and macerate the sugar and the lime slices. (This releases the oil from the skin - essential to the taste.) The wooden instrument you see above is called a pilão and is especially made for the purpose. Every Brazilian household has at least one.
  5. Pour the chilled cachaça into the glass (holding back the ice) and stir with a spoon until the sugar is dissolved.
  6. Add the ice you need to fill the glass, stir again – and drink.

Leighton - Monday


  1. Right, I'll certainly be trying that one Leighton. I love a caipirinha.

  2. I also love caipirinhas - but I think I've always made them with rum. When I'm back in South Africa, you betcha (mandatory phrase now I'm in Minnesota) I'll make them with Cane. Of course in SA the drink of choice of many rugby players, rugby fans, and most other segments of the populations is Cane and Coke. My mother was a whisky drinker until she discovered Cane - then she switched.