This intriguing liquor is gaining in global popularity due to its many varieties and myriad uses. Mixologists love the nuances that Brazil’s national spirit provides even outside of cachaça’s classic caipirinha preparation. But, what exactly is cachaça?
Are Cachaça and Rum the Same Thing?
Even with it’s momentous move to international bar menus, 99% of cachaça’s (pronounced, kah-SHAH-sah) consumption occurs in Brazil. Brazil is the largest producer of sugarcane in the world. Being a country rich in sugar, it should come as no surprise that sugarcane is the primary ingredient in cachaça, which begs the question: are cachaça and rum the same thing?
Rum is made from sugarcane, specifically from molasses, which is a valuable byproduct of sugar production. Cachaça, on the other hand, is made using freshly pressed sugarcane juice, which produces a clear liquor that’s more vegetal and fruity than sweet. Cachaça purists dismiss the rum connection, arguing that cachaça is in a class all its own. Rum enthusiasts argue that using the same base ingredient (sugar) precludes cachaça from being labeled anything other than rum.
The 3 Main Types of Cachaça
Like whiskey or tequila, cachaça can be aged. The way that cachaça is stored before bottling generates different varieties with unique aromas and flavors.
- Branca, Prata, or Classica: Translating to white, silver, or classic, this style of cachaça is not aged in barrels; in fact it is not aged for any significant period of time. Branca cachaça is the most popular style of cachaça you’ll find at your local liquor store.
- Amarela or Ouro: is a cachaça that has spent some time ageing in barrels. Translating to yellow or gold, 50% of amarela or ouro cachaça must spend a minimum of 1 year in barrels. The flavor and color changes slightly with aging. Specifically, the chachaça mellows and begins to pick up flavors of baking-spice and aromatic notes from the barrel.
- Premium and Extra Premium: this cachaça is 100% barrel aged. For premium, the spirit must spend a minimum of 1 year in barrels. For the extra premium, a minimum of 3 years in barrels.
Cocktails and Cooking with Cachaça
If this is your first encounter with cachaça, we must begin with the classic cocktail, the caipirinha. The caipirinha is the national drink of Brazil made using Brazil’s national spirit. The caipirinha is a refreshing citrusy cocktail, similar to a mojito without the mint. Cachaça can also be sipped straight or on the rocks, especially if you are lucky enough to score a bottle of premium or extra premium.
Cachaça is versatile in the kitchen as well as at the bar. Like whiskey or rum, cachaça plays well with proteins. Use cachaça as an ingredient in your next marinade, like in this recipe for Cachaça Grilled Chicken or BBQ sauce. Baked goods also benefit from cachaça, substitute rum or whiskey for cachaça in any of these dessert recipes: Eggnog Creme Brulee, Sticky Toffee Pudding, or Fruitcake.