By Ciara Long, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In the center of Rio’s bustling nightlife area, the neon-lit Lapa, painted sugar canes criss-cross over the shutters the newly-opened bar and cultural centre, Cachaça Social Club. Just a few minutes’ walk away from Lapa’s iconic arches, the bar hopes to bring cachaça’s culture and history to the area’s visitors.
Opening in late January, Cachaça Social Club has been around for just three months. But its lively tales of cachaça’s history, plus its innovative cocktails and award-winning, homemade cachaças, are already drawing visitors.
The bar makes several of its own cachaças on site, and proudly offers tastings and demonstrations of the production process for visitors. In the center of the bar, shining equipment is set up as part of a display of the production process, which Cachaça Social Club’s staff talk visitors through from sugar cane to finished product.
“We’re trying to ‘de-mystify’ the production process and the history for people,” said Cachaça Social Club barman and cachaça expert Thiago da Silva Ramos. “It’s a really interesting history – in a way, it’s the history of Brazil’s formation too, from Portuguese colonizers to present day.”
Ramos, like the bar’s other staff, was hand-picked by the bar’s owner Carlos Lyra for his expertise in the variation of cachaças on offer today, as well as his interest in the drink’s history.
“It’s important for people to know the history and the culture that created the caipirinhas that they’re drinking,” Lyra told The Rio Times. “Cachaça can be so much better than what you can find in the streets by the arches.”
Among its offerings is one of Brazil’s finest silver cachaças, Engenho da Cana, and famous gold cachaça De La Vega. Specialists behind the cocktail bar prepare a selection of Rio-themed caipirinhas, from the traditional lime-and-sugar combination to versions using black pepper, herbs, starfruit and kiwi.
“For me, Carlos is the godfather of cachaça,” said Kelly Tavares, owner of Rio Encantos Tours, which includes the Cachaça Social Club on its cachaça-themed tours of the city.
Tavares feels that the bar offers a truly unique way for visitors to understand and enjoy cachaça. “Many people – including Brazilians – don’t know cachaça’s history or production. Carlos is always here, ready to talk with everybody.”