THE MOST FAMOUS SPIRIT YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF D WR ITTEN BY HARRY H AL L ER I LLUSTRATION “C A C H AÇA. A COMPLETE GUI DE” B Y MA X MAKOWS KI AND FR A N CE SCA COSANTI C O URTE SY OF FA UB OURG DIS TILLE RY
epending on the data you choose to use, caçacha is the first, second, or third most consumed liquor in the world, and yet practically no one seems to know what it is. You probably did not even notice it was misspelled in the previous sentence, but if you asked your local bartender for a glass they would more than likely be able to serve you one. It would possibly come in the form of the Caipirinha, Brazil's de facto national drink, a mixed-beverage most people have heard of which makes cachaça's relative anonymity all the more confounding, save for the fact that, being a cocktail, the Caipirinha's contents are something easily lost in the mix. In fact, the Caipirinha, like the Margarita, purposely intends to hide the flavor of its liquor, partly because of taste and partly because of shame. For most of its history, cachaça was looked upon with disdain. It was the liquor of the poor and enslaved. It was South America's moonshine. Even words related to cachaça continue to carry negative connotations: in Portuguese, a person who makes cachaça is called an Alambiquero instead of a Cachaçeiro since the latter is a slur used to describe a drunkard. And even though cachaça was created a century before the advent of rum, it was only a few years shy of the 21st century when things truly began to turn towards the positive for the sugar cane-based liquor. The late '90s was a time when distillers
started putting serious effort into elevating cachaça to top-shelf status. Soon thereafter, high-end restaurants began to showcase the liquor. People started to drink it neat. Numerous gold and silver awards were bestowed by prestigious international competitions. Diageo, Bacardi, Grupo Campari, and Pernod Ricard paid tens of millions for cachaça distilleries (Diageo actually shelled out $450 million), and on February 22, 2013, the U.S. Government announced it would stop labeling cachaça as a "Brazilian Rum" and start recognizing it as a distinctive product exclusively made in Brazil. With the World Cup and the Olympics turning all eyes towards Brazil, pundits began to proclaim cachaça would surely be following in the footsteps of tequila and mescal. So far, international sales have yet to reveal any solid signs of a cachaça invasion. Some say it is because “cachaça” is both hard to spell and impossible to pronounce. Others point to the fact that with a local consumption representing 95 percent of the market share, there is not enough motivation nor sufficient collective effort to get the product on foreign tables. Some blame the domination of international markets by low-quality cachaça, which give the product a bad name. Probably the best explanation is the most boring one: it takes time for any liquor to garner the spotlight. WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
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