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Esquire – “Don’t Drink Cachaca? Now’s the Time to Start”

EsquireBy David Wondrich

The sugarcane-based liquor is sure to upgrade your summer cocktail, but be wary of the fumey kick at the end.

Something like half the cars in Brazil run on ethanol. But where we distill ours from corn, they use sugarcane. Having spent many a summer afternoon grinding out caipirinhas, the National Cocktail of Brazil, I find this no surprise. Until recently, most of our imported cachaça — the sugarcane distillate that gives the caipirinha its kick — was more or less indistinguishable from high-test: fumey, with a lingering aftertaste of burned rubber.

That’s a shame, because for every automotive-grade cachaça, Brazil must have a hundred tiny artisanal brands, which take the raw sugarcane juice the stuff is made from, ferment it, and then run it through an old-fashioned copper-pot still. Usually they’ll bottle it up right there, but sometimes they’ll age it for a year or two (or, occasionally, 10 or 12) in barrels made out of exotic tropical woods — jequitiba, umburana, ipê — that take the flavor into realms unexplored by distillers of the northern hemisphere.

Fortunately, the recent booze boom has opened the door a crack to let some of these brands into the U.S.

Here, three favorites.

Beleza Pura<sup>®</sup> Cachaca” />Caipirinha grade</h3>
<p>When it comes to caipirinhas, you generally want something smooth and rich but with a bit of the funk found in industrial-grade cachaças.</p>
<h3><img src=Sipping grade

Some cachaças are just too old, expensive, and tasty to load up with lime bits and sugar. Take the GRM ($66), a blend of cachaças aged in some of those exotic woods. Redolent of tropical fruits and undiscovered spices, at the same time it’s bone-dry and, well, elegant. Not bad for a biomass fuel, not bad at all.

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