I’ve only had caipirinhas twice, but I loved them (though, my head didn’t love me the next day). Unfortunately, I have yet to make a trek to Brazil, though it is on my short list.
“A pair of them will make you leap like [a] Playtex Girdle-gal,” wrote Charles H. Baker Jr. in his eccentric 1951 work, “The South American Gentleman’s Companion.”
His racy description captures the effect of cachaca (ka-SHA-sa), the Brazilian national drink with a sweet, fiery flavor that can pack a macho punch. Though often compared to a young white rum (both spring from sugar cane, though rum is made from molasses, a byproduct of refining cane into sugar, and cachaca is distilled from fermented cane), this spirit has a more devilish reputation all its own.
Indeed, though exported brands are roughly 80 proof, more potent bottles are the norm in Brazil. The spirit is popping up more and more here, with a movement toward higher-quality, more refined versions.
“The cheap stuff was all that was available for a long time in the United States,” says Joshua Pearson, beverage director of Sepia restaurant. “We’re definitely seeing more artisan products. … It becomes a nice spirit you can drink without adding tons of fruit juice or sugar.”
The most famous cachaca cocktail is the caipirinha (kai-pee-REEN-ya), a refreshing combo of cachaca, sugar and lime juice served on the rocks. Aged gold cachaca is often served neat.
Wonder where to get the best cachaca in Chicago? Sams, perhaps?