With the 2014 World Cup slated to begin this Thursday in Brazil, the booze-marketing companies are readying their press releases and shiny handouts to give you 1,001 ways to use cachaça in a cocktail. What is cachaça, you ask? The oft-overlooked rum of Brazil, distilled from sugar cane juice, also known as aguardente, pinga, and caninha, but more commonly-known for its role in the caipirinha cocktail––essentially, the Daiquiri of South America.
You can use Brazilian cachaça in the exact same way you use any white rum. The taste profiles can vary from clean and simple, to a more earthy, agricole style (which is more often the case, seeing that cachaça is made in a similar manner to agricole rum). While most aged rums are put into oak, most aged cachaça, from what I've been told, is usually not aged in oak but rather in a wide variety of exotic woods, about ninety-nine of them documented. These include chestnut, amburana, jequitibá, ipê, grápia, balsam wood, almond, jatobá, guanandi, brazilwood, cabreúva, tibiriçá, garapeira, or cherry and yes occasionally even oak (but not usually).
That's utterly fascinating to me.
So why don't we see more cachaça in the United States, especially with the big push for World Cup cachaça parties beginning this week? According to a few producers I've talked with, while cachaça is now recognized as its own category of spirits by the TTB, the requirement that "rum" be aged in oak has thrown up a few roadblocks. The TTB doesn't recognize the exotic woods used for aging cachaça as legal vessels for aging spirits. Thus, the low variety available in the states and why domestic selections like Novo Fogo have crossed over to Bourbon barrels for their aged expressions. Others have simply left the wood designation off the label, so we don't know if it was aged in oak or something more interesting.
My source at Avua Cachaça told me recently, however, that "somebody cleared the way for amburana wood, so we didn’t have a problem." That's good for those of you who want to have a fun, tasty, and authentic World Cup party this week because the Avua Amburana is one of the tastiest cachaças I've ever tasted. There's so much potential for unique rum flavor with all of these crazy woods being used in Brazil that I'm almost bursting with excitement just thinking about it.
If you're interested in getting some ideas about cachaça cocktails, flavors, and history, then you should come by the Redwood City store this Wednesday and meet the guys from Avua. They'll be pouring samples and mixing up some cocktail ideas in our tasting bar from 5 PM to 6:30 PM for free!
If you can't make it, check out this great article about Avua that was in Gourmet magazine recently. There are few things that make drinking more fun than a television and booze pairing; whether it's Mad Men and whiskey, Entourage and tequila, or the World Cup and cachaça.
Get ready to hear a lot more about cachaça starting this week. Get ready to start drinking some of it, too. You can start by making one of these:
- Squeeze four quarters of a lime into a glass and then drop the pieces into the bottom
- Add a tablespoon of sugar (or more if you want it sweeter) and muddle the sugar into the lime juice
- Add 2 oz. of cachaça (or more if you want to get more excited about the soccer match you're watching)
- Add plenty of ice and then stir everything up.
Then get your drink on. I'll be recording this Thursday's opening game and drinking one of these babies the moment I get home to watch it.