As the national spirit of Brazil, cachaça is a spirit that has been steadily gaining popularity in the U.S.

Pronounced ka-SHA-sa, this sugar cane spirit is at the center of an ongoing debate between the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) and Brazil, which insists that cachaça is worthy of its own category and wants to be free of the “rum” label for its beloved spirit. Regardless of the argument, cachaça is a spirit worth knowing.

The Brazilian government says cachaça is not a rum, because it is made straight from the sugarcane; the U.S. says it is a rum –a “Brazilian rum” — because according to U.S. law any spirit derived from sugar cane or sugarcane byproducts like molasses must be labeled as a rum.

Cachaça is similar to rum in that it has light, aged, and dark variations. To be considered “aged cachaça,” at least 50 percent of the liquor must be aged for one or more years. Most cachaça is clear, but sometimes a caramel color is added by distillers to make it darker.

Brazilians have been distilling cachaça since the mid-1500s, making it older than rum, which dates back to the mid-1600s. The Brazilian spirit also has an unfortunate history, being that the first to consume this spirit were Brazilian slaves who drank it to give them energy, as well as dull their pain, during extremely difficult work days.

The word “cachaça” actually comes from African slaves who worked in the sugarcane mills. They gave the name to the froth that formed at the top of the large pots where the sugarcane was being boiled. Slaves took the froth, fermented it, and called it “cachaça.”

You can’t talk about cachaça without bringing up cachaça’s famous wingman, the Caipirinha (pronounced kai-pur-EEN-ya), which is the national cocktail of Brazil and the most popular cocktail to mix up with the Brazilian spirit. We have included an easy-to-mix recipe for a traditional Caipirinha in our round up along with some amazing cachaça cocktails which are must-mixes for summer!

Caipirinha

Caipirinha

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Caipirinha

Courtesy of Colleen Graham

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Cachaça
  • 1 Lime, Quartered
  • 2 tsp. Fine Sugar

Preparation: Place the lime wedges and sugar into a glass. Muddle well. Fill the glass with ice cubes. Pour in the cachaça. Stir well.

Note: Keep the sugar mixed in the drink by stirring often.


Blackberry Cabernet

Blackberry Cabernet

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Blackberry Cabernet Cachaça Cocktail

Courtesy of Andrea Correale

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz. Cachaça
  • 2 oz. Cabernet Wine
  • 1 oz. Soda Water
  • 2 oz. Simple Syrup
  • 2 Lemons, Hand-Squeezed
  • 1 Lemon Twist, for Garnish
  • 6 Blackberries

Preparation: Muddle 3 blackberries with lemon juice from 1 lemon. In a shaker add cachaça, cabernet, simple syrup, and stir. Mix in muddled black berry and lemon juice mixture. Continue stirring. Top with soda water. Garnish with lemon twist and fresh blackberries before serving.


Pearl Button

Pearl Button

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Pearl Button

Courtesy of John Deragon

Ingredients:

  • 8 to 10 Ice Cubes
  • 2 oz. Cachaça
  • 3/4 oz. Lillet Blanc
  • 1/2 oz. Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
  • 4 oz. San Pellegrino Limonata
  • 1/2 Grapefruit Wheel

Preparation: Fill 10-ounce Collins or highball glass with ice. Add cachaça, Lillet Blanc, and lime juice. Top with San Pellegrino Limonata and stir briefly. Place 1/2 grapefruit wheel in drink and serve immediately.


Kumquat Caipirito

Kumquat Caipirito

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Kumquat Caipirito

Courtesy of BLT Steak, NYC

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Cachaça
  • 1 tbsp. Superfine Sugar
  • 6 Mint Leaves
  • 3 Whole Kumquats, Halved
  • Mint
  • Soda Water
  • 1 Mint Sprig

Preparation: Muddle mint and kumquats. Add remaining ingredients, shake, and pour into a glass with fresh ice and splash of soda water. Garnish with mint sprig.


Batida de Avocado

Batida de Avocado

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Batida de Avocado

Courtesy of Esteban Ordonez, Mixologist, Burning Waters Cantina, NY

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Leblon Cachaça
  • 3/4 oz. Freshly Squeezed, Strained Lime Juice
  • 3/4 oz. Simple Syrup
  • 5 drops Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tbsp. Fresh Ripe Avocado
  • 1 Lime Wheel
  • 1 Sugarcane Stick, Optional

Preparation: In a cocktail shaker, muddle the avocado to a puree, add the remaining ingredients, fill with ice, and shake vigorously until well chilled. Strain into an ice-filled Collins or highball glass. Garnish with a sugarcane stick and lime wheel.