- Posted July 2, 2010 by
New York City, New Jersey
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Share your heirloom recipes
That's Not Rum In Your Drink
If you've ever been to a Cuban or Brazilian restaurant, you may have ordered the popular drink called a Caipirinha. It's the national cocktail of Brazil. What most people think it is made with, just isn't so, and for a very interesting reason.
In the USA the drink is made with "rum" but it's not the rum we all may know too well. The alcohol is actually called cachaça (pronounced ka-sha-sa) but for various US regulation reasons the alcohol is not allowed to be called that. While both rum and cachaça are made from sugar cane derived products, most rum is made from molasses, cachaca is not.
I learned this, and much more, while walking around NYC's Meatpacking District Thursday night. There, I came upon this funky-looking truck, manned by Tom Grizzle (great name!) and his sidekick Monica. They are out, driving around New York City, handing out samples and flyers informing people about what's going on with this Brazilian "Rum."
So what, exactly, is cachaça? It is a Brazilian spirit distilled from sugar cane juice. It is the third most consumed spirit in the world, behind only vodka and soju/shochu, the Asian drink made from rice. Cachaça is only made in Brazil. However, according to U.S. law, any spirit derived from sugarcane must be labeled as a rum - in Cachaça's case, ‘Brazilian Rum.' This has been in dispute for some time now, with discussion and consideration of separating Cachaça into its own ‘class,' like tequila and mezcal.
More and more businesses are asking for the distinction, especially since the cultural and sensorial differences between rum and Cachaça are so significant. So what are those sensorial differences? Since Cachaça is made from fresh sugar cane juice and not molasses, it has a fruitier taste than rum. It is sweet and fresh since it comes directly from the crop.
In Brazil, cachaça is consumed predominantly pure or in a Caipirinha. Made with crushed lime, the Caipirinha has become a standard cocktail at bars across the country and the world. Cachaça is made in one of two ways: column stills or alambique copper pot stills. Column still cachaça tends to be less expensive since it is made in a more efficient way. Cachaça made from Alambique copper pot stills are usually more expensive, as they are made in small batches and have a more refined taste. Although most cachaças are ‘white', there are also many varieties of aged cachaça that use various types of indigenous Brazilian woods.
It's amazing what one can discover on a night out in New York City!