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San Francisco Chronicle: “Spirits: A wave of artisan cachaca hits local bars”

Camper English

SF Chronicle Review of Beleza PuraNipping at the mojito’s heels, the caipirinha is poised to become the next Latin cocktail of the moment.

With just three ingredients - a muddled half of lime, sugar and cachaca (kah-SHAH-sah), a Brazilian spirit - a caipirinha is easy enough to make. If a bar or restaurant has a muddler, there is a fair chance the bartender can make a caipirinha.

With so few ingredients in the drink, the choice of cachaca will have a large impact on its flavor, but until recently bartenders had to work with the very few mass-produced, rough-tasting brands that were available in the United States.

In recent months, three smaller brands of aged imported cachacas have become available: Armazem Vieira, GRM and Rochinha. These products range from 2 to 16 years of aging in woods with names like arririba, umburana, and jequitiba rosa. Some of these brands are available at the liquor store John Walker & Sons, and at the bar Cantina in San Francisco and the restaurant A Cote in Oakland. These boutique products come with a matching price, though. The GRM (my favorite of the bunch) sells for more than $60 per 750 ml bottle.

These three brands are imported by Olie Berlic, a former sommelier from New York who discovered them in Brazil while preparing to launch his own brand of cachaca, Beleza Pura. Berlic says, “I was looking for a high-end, unaged cachaca. The caipirinha calls for unaged, un-wooded cachaca, so that you don’t have the wood flavors competing with the fresh lime citrus flavors.” Beleza Pura® is meant for the caipirinha, whereas his imports can be sipped neat.

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