Most people will refer to cachaça as Brazilian rum. Which is fine, if the person you are talking to is not from Brazil. Cachaça producers have struggled long and hard to have their spirit recognized as a unique entity, and that happened in 2013 with the United States. Cachaça and rum's biggest similarity is that they are made with sugar products. Historically rum has been made with molasses, a byproduct of the sugar making process. Cachaça is made with the first press of sugar cane juice, much like rhum is made in the Caribbean. There are more similarities in flavor profile to rhum than rum. The bulk of the product stays in the country, with Germany being the largest consumer outside of Brazil. If you have heard of this spirit, it is most likely via the Caipirinha. It utilizes the spirit with muddled lime and sugar. There are many other cocktails that can be made with it, but that is the one most associated to it.
Naren Young, bartender, mixologist, and founder of Fork and Shaker, took the spirit of Brazil and incorporated it into the Amazonia cocktail during his time at Bobo Restaurant in NYC. He started his journey well before it was legal for him to drink, and has spent that time exploring the hospitality world. He worked his way through the bars of his native Australia before hitting the road for New York City and the international stage. He has written for numerous publications, as well as appearing on Martha Stewart. Introducing him to the cocktail world, and his influence on it globally, may be the single best thing that came out of the movie Cocktail. Thank you Tom Cruise and Elizabeth Shue.
The Amazonia (by Naren Young)
1 oz./ 30 mL cachaça
6 mint leaves
1 oz./ 30 mL apple juice
.5 oz/ 15 mL fresh lime juice
.5 oz/ 15 mL simple syrup
3 oz./ 90 mL champagne or other sparkling wine
Garnish: Apple Slice
Place the mint and cachaça into a mixing tin. Muddle the mint until it is just a little bruised. Pour in the apple juice, lime juice, and simple syrup. Add ice, then shake the mixture vigorously for 20 to 30 seconds. Strain into a champagne glass, then top with the champagne. Add the apple slice, then serve.
So damn good. This is a light and refreshing cocktail where none of the flavors really stand out strongly, but work well together to create a unique profile. There is a kiss of mint, some crispness of apple and champagne, and uniquely flavored cachaça that all come out at different times as you are imbibing it. I would much rather have this than a Mimosa or Bellini as a brunch cocktail.
If you want to take a deeper dive into the world of cachaça, I wrote something for the Alcohol Professor that you may enjoy.