Your Guide to Brazil’s Favorite Spirit
by Kayleigh Kulp
Brazil’s fiery personality is personified in cachaça (ka-SHA-sah), its native sugarcane spirit that serves as the main ingredient for the caipirinha, the country’s national cocktail.
Although cachaça is a type of rum dating back to the 16th century when the Portuguese brought sugarcane from Madeira, it wasn’t until 2013 that it was recognized as a distinctive Brazilian spirit under United States law. Made only from fermented sugarcane juice (rather than molasses, like many Caribbean rums) in copper pot stills, cachaça offers light, airy and nuanced flavors.
It is important to note the difference between artisanal and industrial cachaças, the first one being more upscale. By Brazilian law, cachaça is defined as a beverage with an alcohol content between 38-54% by volume made from the distillation of fresh sugarcane juice. Although it is a light spirit, cachaça has a dark past. Cachaça’s history is inextricably tied to slavery in Brazil, when African slaves worked the sugarcane fields. Cachaça is the third-most consumed spirit in the world and dates back to the 1500s, preceding rum, which didn’t start production until the 1600s.
GAYOT’s list of the Best Cachaças range in age and flavor, yet each is balanced and refined enough to enjoy neat or mixed in a cocktail.
1. Água Luca
Price: $30 for 750 ml.
By: Água Luca
Fruity and packing a punch, Agua Luca cachaça deserves a place in your home bar.
Distilled twelve times, vodka lovers will appreciate its bite alongside soda and lime. It can also stand up to the sour-and-sweet flavor in a caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail. This cachaça will be sure to add zing to your tropical concoctions.
2. Avuá Amburana
Origin: Carmo Brazil
Price: $50 for 750 ml.
By: Avuá Cachaça
Sourced from a single estate right outside of Rio de Janeiro, the distillate is aged two years in native Amburana wood casks, giving the cachaça its light golden color.
Strong aromas of cinnamon and gingerbread make it perfect in a holiday punch and it certainly punches on the palate, with cranberry and honeysuckle flavors offering a light, short to medium finish.
3. Cabana Cachaça
Origin: Jaguariuna Brazil
Price: $35 for 750 ml.
Love white tequila? Then you’ll go crazy for Cabana Cachaça.
This velvety double-distilled cachaça has acidity and slight vegetal notes and is made outside of Sao Paolo. It hints a little floral (is it rosé?) on the back end while the slightly spicy, peppery finish conjures up hot nights at the beach.
4. Cuca Fresca Prata
Price: $20 for 750 ml.
By: Cuca Fresca
You’ll be transported to the tropics with the coconut aromas of this certified organic (and affordable) cachaça.
Its triple filtration and double distillation result in a smooth mouthfeel and balanced, mild taste that make it versatile in just about any cocktail. To get the full effect, pair with guava or orange juice, as Snoop Dogg, one of the brand’s investors, would do.
Origin: Patos de Minas Brazil
Price: $25 for 750 ml.
By: Destillerie Maison Leblon
In a light and airy fashion, this unaged single-estate cachaça smells green, with nicely contrasting honeydew and vegetal aromas.
Made at the Destillerie Maison Leblon in Patos de Minas, Minas Gerais, the spirit rests in French oak casks previously used in France to age XO Cognac for up to six months. Slight bitterness lingers on the palate, making this cachaça a formidable complement to savory herbs like basil. Serve in a classic caipirinha with lime and sugar.
6. Novo Fogo Barrel Aged
Origin: Morretes Brazil
Price: $35 for 750 ml.
By: Novo Fogo
You can’t help but remember your grandma’s freshly baked cherry pie when nosing this organic cachaça from Novo Fogo for the first time.
Aged in former bourbon barrels for two years, it smells so luscious you’ll want to wear this one as perfume or cologne. Pair with vanilla ice cream or in a boozy, stirred Manhattan.
7. Pitu Vitoriosa
Origin: Vitoria de Santo Antao Brazil
Price: $125 for 750 ml.
This premium cachaça spends five years in French oak, which gives it the sipping qualities of being silky on the palate without a high alcohol punch.
If you like sweets, Pitu Vitoriosa is your jam, with rich notes of coffee, vanilla and burnt sugar. Even if you’re not a fan of sugary drinks, the aromas alone are worth keeping a glass around. A pleasantly surprising take on the category.
8. Sagatiba Velha
Price: $30 for 750 ml.
Aged for two years in bourbon barrels, Sagatiba Velha cachaça offers all the delicious crème brulee and gingerbread notes you might expect.
It also however, provides earthy undertones that give it enough heft as a dark rum substitute in a Dark and Stormy cocktail. A conservative 72 proof, it makes a good go-to for day drinking.
9. Yaguara Branca
Price: $40 for 750 ml.
Produced by the fifth generation of the same family who started the brand, this cachaça means “jaguar” in Portuguese.
But its name is a little misguided, since the toasted graham cracker aromas with hints of raspberry and caramel are anything but fierce. Instead, the liquid coats the palate like velvet with a full, fruity mouthfeel and grapefruit finish. Drink with a grapefruit twist and a spoonful of sugar on ice.
10. Ypioca Gold
Origin: Fortaleza Brazil
Price: $26 for 1 liter
By: Ypioca Group
This spirit’s warm golden color is a tease to its nutty, honeyed and woodsy flavors.
The flavors of Ypioca Gold sit well-rounded on the palate with medium body. Upon a second sip, rich vanilla and raisin notes present themselves for a delicious finish. A good value and mixable drink, sip this in a Mai Tai.
Cocktail Recipe: Cabana Caipirinha
2 oz. Cabana Cachaça
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 lime, quartered
Splash of club soda
Method: In a rocks glass, muddle 1 lime (quartered) and 1 tbsp. of granulated sugar. Add 2 oz. Cabana Cachaça and ice. Shake and top with a splash of club soda.