Brazilian Spirit – Cachaça

Russia is famous for vodka, America for bourbon, Mexico for tequila and Brazil for cachaça (pronunciation [kaˈʃasɐ]). This clear, fruity, spicy and sweet liquor with typical ABV from 38% to 48% must be produced in Brazil and it’s distilled from fermented sugarcane juice. Cachaça is the base ingredient of caipirinha, national cocktail of Brazil, but many other cocktails contain this spirit (check out Top 5 Cachaca Cocktails).

If it’s made from sugarcane, cachaça is similar to rum, isn’t it? The major difference between these two liquors is that cachaça is made from fermented sugarcane juice, while rum is commonly made from a by-product from refineries which boil the sugarcane juice to extract sugar called molasses. Also, cachaça can be made only in Brazil, whereas rum can be made anywhere on Earth.

The classification of cachaça is done based on the way this drink is stored before being bottled. If it’s not stored in wood after distillation or if it’s stored in a stainless steel container before it’s bottled, cachaça is labeled as “branca” (white). Even if it rests in woods such as freijó, peanut or jequitibá which release no color, it’s considered to be “branca”. Sometimes, “branca” cachaça is called traditional (tradicional), classic (clássica) and silver (prata).

Yellow (amarela) cachaça is aged or stored in wood and that changes its color significantly. Sometimes, amarela cachaça is called aged (envelhecida) or gold (ouro), but there’s a difference between these two cachaça classes. “Ouro” is kept for a non-specific period of time in a barrel of any size, while “envelhecida” has to contain at least 50% of cachaça that was kept for at least one year in a wooden barrel of up to 700 liters. If it’s labeled as “Premium”, aged cachaça must be aged for a period not shorter than a year, while “Extra Premium” cachaça has to be properly stored for a period of 3 years or more.

Cachaça was first invented in Brazil by Portuguese settlers. Approximately 400 years ago, plantation owners started serving this liquid to the slaves to increase vigor. After a while, the distillation process has improved and soon everybody began to drink cachaça on dinner tables. Since the 1920s, this spirit has become a symbol of Brazilian identity; it’s produced throughout the country and consumed by various social and ethnic groups.