Thursday, March 27, 2014

Brazil, Caipirinha and the Joys of Cachaca

Guest Post by Elaine Masters

I wasn’t in Brazil 36 hours before being introduced to the many pleasures of Cachaca (pronounced Kah-Cha-Sah), a ubiquitous liquor with a long history. First distilled from sugar cane by slave owners, the liquor has become a symbol of national pride and the main ingredient of Brazil's national cocktail, the Caipirinha.

During the Rio Carnival, at this year’s Sambadrom parade, (a riotous three night party where the top Samba schools present their best in dance, costumes and floats), one school chose to present the history of Cachaca. Hundreds of dancers portrayed trees, slaves, Portuguese pirates, and the King and Queen of the region as they wove past thousands of cheering, bouncing, costumed revelers. It continued from 10 pm until nearly dawn.

Caipirinha made with Cachaca in Brazil
I had no idea about all that on my first afternoon in the country. I was in Brazil to attend a wedding reception and the party was held at a villa outside the main town of Presidente Prudente, northeast of Sao Paolo. While a buffet was being set out, a deep grill roasted skewers of seasoned meat and a kind gentleman waited for me to make my drink selection.

There were bottles of Brahmah and Skol beers in ice buckets on the tables but here a set of large containers filled the countertop. They contained strawberries, passion fruit, pineapple and cashew fruit, but my choice was lime. Turned out that’s the most traditional way to make a Caipirinha (Kai-Pah-Reen-Yah) cocktail – poured on beaches, in bungalows, high rises and homes throughout Brazil.

First, the bartender threw in chunks of freshly sliced lime and two big scoops of sugar and started to mash the mixture vigorously. Next a generous pour of Cachaca followed before tossing it into a cocktail shaker. Within moments he poured it over ice and handed me the glass. It had the tart sweetness I expected, but the Cachaca added a particular smokiness, more rum than whiskey, but just as potent.

I was hooked. It was delicious from start to finish and for each of the subsequent variations I tried before conceding defeat and ending the evening bouncing along to the Samba beat with abandon.

Now at home my souvenir bottle is looking a little low and I’m determined to find a local source for Cachaca; then Brazil will continue to blaze in my memory with every sip.

Elaine Masters is the author of the Trip Wellness Blog, posts conversations about travel on The Gathering Road podcast, is the co-host of Travel Massive San Diego, organizer of the San Diego Travel Festival and likes to keep her suitcase packed, ready to go. An avid scuba diver, she has more than 150 entries in her dive log from waters around the world.

Katherine Belarmino has been traveling for over ten years on a quest to see as much of the world as possible, experience new cultures, and sample other cuisines and libations. She also writes the travel blog Travel the World, which journals her world travels with her husband Romeo and seeks to encourage others to take the time to travel.