By Martin Kocandrle, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – There are few drinks that are as quintessentially Brazilian as the notorious Capirinha, an indelible delicacy constituted by a mix of lime, crushed ice, sugar and the key ingredient, Cachaça, or “aguardente.” If one remembers (or forgets) key moments of their time in Brazil, it just may be a result of Cachaça, emblazoned on the brain and burnt on the taste buds.
When traveling through Latin America one will undoubtedly be exposed to the various types of rum that have their characteristic regional flavors, drinks and customs. Consider Cachaça to be the Brazilian interpretation of rum. With its base ingredient being sugar cane the brewing and distilling phase provide Cachaça with its distinct flavor and strength.
André Barretto, the manager of emerging Cachaça brand Três Praias, explained how the flavor and quality of Cachaça is a direct result of attention paid to the product during every step of production. This includes everything from how the sugar cane is harvested to how the liquids are filtered and many large brands; “brew large industrial quantities of Cachaça and burn their sugar cane before harvesting, creating a product deficient in quality and taste.”
One location in Rio that has chosen to harness the interest for premium brands of Cachaça is Academia de Cachaça (Academy of Cachaça). Located in the heart of Leblon with a sister location in Barra da Tijuca, the Academia is popular for its food, drinks and atmosphere.
With an indoor/outdoor space it is a great way to start or spend the night. As it is quite popular on weekends it is fitting to arrive before the nighttime rush to avoid waiting for a table. If you are not able to make it for the nighttime festivities, on Sunday afternoon as the Academia cooks up a notable Feijoada that brings the locals around in throngs.
It might be easy to brush off the name as a play on words, however, since its birth in 1985 the Academia has become a primary reference for those interested in the art and science of Cachaça drinking. Indeed the Academia boasts close to 100 brands of Cachaça that have been delicately selected by “notorious cachaçeiros.” A glimpse at the menu reveals a carefully calculated chronicle of the scent, flavor, age and visual impact of every brand on offer.
Customers can sample various brands by ordering shots that range from R$4 to R$30, with the option to buy bottles that similarly range from R$60 to R$300. The potency of various brands also fluctuates, with weaker ones ranging from thirty percent to the boldest that reach fifty percent (100 proof). One will also notice the difference in taste, each brand possesses a diverse combination of herbs and ingredients that results in a wide selection of flavors to excite the palate.
Without possessing a liver transplant from superman himself it is impossible to test all the brands of Cachaça at the Academia in a short period of time. Rather than undertake the inebriating task of sampling brands alphabetically consider tasting ones from different regions to gain an understanding of the subtle characteristics and flavors from different locations in Brazil.
The Academia is a great starting point to acquaint yourself with the intricacies of Cachaça however it is not the only place with premium brands. Most restaurants and bars will have a selection of various Cachaças, requesting a better brand of Cachaça in your drinks will make your night more enjoyable and your morning less painful.