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Hamptons Cottage and Garden – “Wine+Spirits”

Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave

I began enjoying exotic cocktails early in my adult life. In college, when my classmates flocked to Florida for spring break, I took a more adventurous route-jetting off by myself for a wild week in Rio de Janeiro. Before marketing gurus gave Vegas its tagline, I had my own “what-happens-in-Rio-stays-in-Rio” lost weekend, fueled mostly by potent caipirinhas (kie pee REEN yahs). This firewater potion-Brazil’s national cocktail- sent me into al late-night samba trance and led to all sorts of sexy mischief.

A caipirinha, the Brazilian version of the Cuban mojito, combines cachaça (a high proof spirit made, like rum, from sugarcane) with crushed lime and a heap of sugar. It delivers a devastating energizing kick. As a photographer friend describes it, “a mojito is an entry-level Mercedes, while a caipirinha is a brand new Ferrari-faster, sexier and with much more horsepower. They’re lethal and euphoric” he continues. “My limit is three.”

Lately the Caipirinha is bringing a festive Brazilian vibe to jet set enclaves from Southampton to St. Tropez. Brazilian theme parties abound. (Don’t miss this summer’s biggest, Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center benefit.)

And the Caipirinha’s raw materials are getting an upgrade to go with fancier digs. Cachaça, long available in this country only in its simplest mass market form, has just arrived in a variety of super premium incarnations. The low-end model, newly imported Beleza Pura® (”pure beauty” from São Paulo) is produced from select sugarcane fermented with wild yeast and distilled into a smooth, clean spirit with a slight smoky nose. This cachaça is so pure it banishes those caipirinha headaches to spring breaks past.

Excalibur Enterprise, Beleza’s US distributor has introduced a full line of handcrafted sipping Cachaças designed not for mixing but for consuming alone, like single malt Scotch or very fine tequila. These precious premium spirits are aged between four and 16 years. “These Cachaças are more like top grade tequilas than rums” explains Olie Berlic, the former sommelier who founded Excalibur.

Berlic scoured Brazil in search of the country’s best cachaça-tasting over 5000 and, in the end, choosing six to import. His portfolio features a range of lovely spirits with notes of raspberry, cinnamon, toffee, and olives. Some are smoky-like Islay Scotch-while others are simultaneously spicy and smooth like fine reposado or añejo tequilas. The single-barrel Rochinha, aged 12 years, is as velvety as Scotland’s famed Glenmorangie.

Cachaça is so highly prized in Brazil that men are known to rhapsodize about it in the same affectionate terms used to describe the women they love. It’s not uncommon to hear cachaça described with fetishistic rapture. “Ah, this cachaça,” for example. “She comes from the island of Florianopolis in the far south. She smells luscious, of wild raspberries. She couldn’t be hotter.”

Such reverence is, of course, reserved for fine aged cachaça that’s far too precious to drown in sugar or lime. For the best caipirinhas, stick with Beleza Pura® and serve them at your next party with pureed strawberry, mango, or pineapple, or kiwi instead of lime. Thee of these at the start of a Hamptons weekend, and you’ll have your own what happens-in-the-Hamptons-stays-in-the….” Well, you know the rest.

SUPER PREMIUM CACHAÇAS

Beleza Pura
Made from the best of the hand-harvested sugarcane fermented with wild yeast, a smooth pure spirit with a lightly smoky note in the noseand rich and clean in the palette with a long finish.
$28 Silver Medal, San Francisco World Spirit Competition, March ‘05

GRM
From Minas Gerais, one of the best areas for sugarcane, this small batch, handcrafted super premium was rated Brazil’s #1 artisan cachaça, iron-free mineral water, unique strains of yeast, and aging in Jequitiba-Rose tree barrels bring on flavors of cinnamon and spice much like añejo tequila.
$65 Gold Medal, San Francisco World Spirit Competition, March ‘05

Rochinha
Considered Brazil’s top single-barrel, handcrafted cachaça, it’s been made for over 100 years in Rio de Janeiro and is know for its single-malt-like characteristics of toffee, smoky and peaty notes.
Aged 5 years $38
Double Gold/Best Cachaça Award, San Francisco World Spirit Competition, March ‘05
Aged 12 years $80

Armazem Vieira
Located on a picturesque island in Southern Brazil, the distillery has produced cachaça for the last 160 years with a unique aroma of raspberry and an eau-de-vie quality. The spirit is aged in arariba wood for up to 20 years after which a blend is created via a specialized system called “Solera.”
Esmeralda, aged 4 years $34
Rubi, aged 8 years $48
Onix, aged 16 years $90

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