Brazil is an enchanting destination to say the least. Known for its’ beautiful brasilieras and blissful disarming scenery, it’s any man’s wet dream. Although the unblemished beaches and Cristo Redentor statue are currently out of my reach, I can still enjoy one of Brazil’s prized possessions in the confines of New York City. Known as “Brazilian rum,” cachaça has quietly gained a cult following in nightlife culture. ‘But what exactly is cachaça and where can I taste this libation?’ I wondered.
Pronounced kah-SHAH-sah, Brazil’s national spirit is distilled and fermented from freshly pressed sugar cane juice. This differs from rum, which is made from molasses. “Cachaça is everywhere back at home – it is a central part of our culture and its significance is comparable to football and carnival,” explained Luiz my Brazilian friend and makeshift cultural guide. Furthermore its’ origins give cachaça a definable character amongst the Brazilian community. “At first it was made like moonshine among the poor including slaves, sailors and lower class citizens, but it became progressively upscale as tourism became a fixture to our economy” the Sao Paulo native reflected.
Little Brazil in Astoria, Queens is a great place to find this spirit. After the brief history lesson my guide and I migrated to The Malagueta, a local restaurant cherished for its’ authentic Brazilian cuisine that’s full of charm and stocked with cachaça. I placed my order for it “pura” (straight) before even looking at the menu. As per Brazilian custom, I spilled a couple of drops out por los santos before consuming. Upon my first sip the flavor profile was a unique one. It tasted like tequila with a bourbon-like burn on the finish. This didn’t stop me from finishing my glass though. After going hard the first time, I took my next round as a delicious caipirinha. The helpful wait staff informed me that other popular cachaça-based cocktails include variations of Bloody Mary’s, Mimosas, Martinis and batidas. Furthermore cachaça can be infused in food like “Peito De Pato (sautéed duck breast marinated with cachaça and lime).” I now have a newfound appreciation for Brazilian culture, my curiosity was rewarded handsomely by cachaça. Here is a fun recipe that will serve as a great introduction to Brazil’s finest.