Fiery sweetness courses down your throat tinged with a hint of lime and heaven. On the way you also get a flavor of sugarcane and the zing of soda. Best taken on a rainy lazy evening or a hot summer’s day, cachaça is not just a hip sounding spirit but the national drink of Brazil. Pronounced ka-sha-sa, this drink is a product made of distilled and fermented sugarcane juice, and it is to Brazil what whiskey is to Scotland.
The history of cachaça dates back 400 years when plantation owners served the liquid to their slaves after noticing that the drink enhanced their energy. Evolving since then to become the country’s symbol in the 1920’s, cachaça sashayed onto international bar counters as the main ingredient in caipirinha, which is Brazil’s national cocktail. There is even a National Cachaça Day celebrated on June 12 to mark the occasion when people protested the Portuguese ruling that made the production of cachaça illegal.
All cachaça originates in Brazil, where 396 million gallons are consumed annually, compared with 3.96 million outside the country. There are two types of cachaça—aged and not aged. Most of the aged drinks are consumed in Brazil, while in the U.S. it is the un-aged variety that is preferred. Germany is the largest importer of cachaça, becoming the largest consumer of the drink outside Latin America, constituting about one fourth of the foreign market. But, with its attentive and eclectic patrons, it is the U.S. that remains alluring to producers, turning the nation into the fastest growing market. In 2006, more than 65,000 nine-liter cases of cachaça were sold in the U.S., a 63% increase from the year before.
Cachaça is poised to become the next tequila, as the poor man’s drink has finally bubbled up to fill more cups than ever. Once the favored drink of slaves, it has now enslaved many with its crystal clear charms. As the Brazilians would say Saúde!1
Postcards from Around the World
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