Cachaça is a Brazilian distilled spirit made from sugar cane juice. It is the best selling and most popular spirit in Brazil. There are approximately 1.2 billion liters produced annually and only a tiny portion of that is exported to other countries. By contrast, in 2014, Kentucky distilleries distilled 1.2 million barrels (approx 143 million liters) of bourbon. Two types of Cachaça are produced: a clear, unaged spirit and a golden brown aged spirit. Most cachaça is not heavily aged, so it is uncommon to see it with the same depth of color as you might find in a bourbon or aged rum. All of the cachaça that is aged is put into wood barrels made of native Brazilian woods, not oak.
Cachaça is sometimes described as “Brazilian rum.” Most rum is made from molasses, but rhum agricole, which is primarily produced in the French Caribbean, is also made from fresh pressed sugar cane juice (not molasses) and has a similar flavor profile. Cachaça has a crisp, vegetal flavor and distinct grassy notes. Some have citrus or apple notes, while others have meaty, more savory, elements to them. Aged cachaças typically have vanilla and spice notes that are not found in unaged spirit. The exact flavor will vary from brand to brand.
The most common way to use cachaça is in making a caipirinha, Brazil’s most famous cocktail. The caipirinha is made with limes, sugar and cachaça and is a very refreshing drink to enjoy on a hot day, even if you’re not in Rio when imbibing.