Cachaça (IPA2|ˌkaˈʃasɐ) is the most popular distilled alcoholic beverage in Brazil. Cachaça is denomination of origin, in other regions of Brazil it is known as "aguardente", "pinga" or other names. Cachaça is mostly produced in Brazil, where 1.5 billion liters (396 million gallons) are consumed annually (roughly eight litres per head), compared with 15 million liters (3.96 million gallons) outside the country. [cite news | last = Carter| first = Kelly E. | title = Cachaça: It's the essence of Brazil in a bottle| work = USA Today| publisher = Gannett Company| date = 2007-02-16| url =| accessdate = 2008-02-21] Cachaça is, "...the product of the distillation of fermented sugarcane juice, with its alcohol strength between 38% and 48% by volume. Up to six grams per liter of sugar may be added." [cite web| last =| first =| authorlink =|coauthors =|title =Resposta técnica - cachaça| work =| publisher =| date =|url =| format =pdf| doi =| accessdate =2007-02-18]

Cachaça differs from rum in that it is made from sugarcane juice while rum is made from either molasses or sugarcane juice then aged in oak barrels.

1.3 billion liters of Cachaça is produced each year. Only 1% of this production is exported (mainly to Germany). [cite web| last =| first =| authorlink =|coauthors =|title =Marvada chique| work =| publisher =Editora Globo| date =2003-05| url=,3916,533013-1641-1,00.html| format =| doi =| accessdate =2007-02-18] . Outside Brazil, cachaça is used almost exclusively as an ingredient in tropical drinks, with the "caipirinha" being the most famous cocktail.


There are two types of cachaça: artesanal and industrial.

Artesanal cachaças are produced by thousands of small mills spread all over the country. Traditionally, the fermentation agent is maize flour (called "fubá" in Portuguese) and the distillation unit is a copper pot still. The resulting product comes out in 3 batches: "head", "core" and "tail". Most of the makers take only the "core", discarding the other two which have undesirable components.

Then the beverage is either bottled or stored in wood barrels for aging. The cachaça is aged in barrels made from a great variety of native or exotic trees such as chestnut, umburana, jequitibá, ipê, grápia, balsam wood, almond, jatobá, guanandi, brazilwood, cabreúva, tibiriçá, garapeira, cherry, and oak. Makers of artesanal cachaça usually bottle their own product, selling directly to the market (consumers, bars, restaurants, supermarkets, etc.). Domestically, artesanal cachaças are mostly drunk straight by consumers from the higher economic classes of society, or made into "caipirinhas" with sugar and lime.

Industrial cachaças are made by medium-sized and big mills mostly located in the countryside of the São Paulo and Ceará states. The industrial cachaça makers use column stills to process the fermented sugarcane juice ("continuous distillation process"). Because of this production system, some impurities may remain in the resulting spirit. The product is then sold as a raw material to cachaça bottlers. The bottlers adjust the cachaças to their standards by adding or removing components. Most of the time, industrial cachaças are not aged, being drunk straight by the lower economic classes.


Cachaça was invented by the first Portuguese settlers of Brazil, in the region around the town of São Vicente, sometime between 1532 and 1548. Workers at local sugar mills first discovered that the sugarcane juice ("garapa"), cooked and left standing, would "sour" (ferment) and turn into a mild alcoholic beverage. The product, disparagingly named "cagaça", was consumed by slaves, as a cheap substitute for the Indians' "cauim". Soon someone had the idea of distilling it, and thus cachaça was born.

Cachaça distilleries multiplied through colonial Brazil during the 16th and 17th centuries. Portugal eventually took notice and, in order to protect the market for Portuguese-made grappa ("bagaceira"), tried several times to outlaw the manufacture and consumption of the new spirit. In 1756, after a century of failure to suppress it, the Crown gave up and levied a tax on cachaça. This tax brought substantial revenue to the Treasury, and contributed to the reconstruction following the 1755 Lisbon earthquake and tsunami.

Currently there are more than 4,000 different brands of cachaça available in Brazil. Early in its history it was consumed mainly by Africans, peasants, and members of the lower class. As is often the case, elitists considered it a low drink, unfit for exclusivist bars and tables. However, the finer points of the product gained wider and wider appreciation, and it is now a very popular drink, considered by some to be in the same class as whiskey and wine. In the country's largest cities there are many bars specialized in cachaça, called "cachaçarias", offering hundreds of different brands, some of them very expensive. The most prized brands are produced in Minas Gerais and São Paulo. The Brazilian government and producer associations have recently acted to promote the export of cachaça.

Drinking cachaça

Cachaça, like rum, has two varieties: unaged (white) and aged (gold). White cachaça is usually bottled immediately after distillation and tends to be cheaper. It is often used to prepare "caipirinha" and all other types of beverages in which cachaça is an ingredient. Dark cachaça, usually seen as the "premium" variety, is aged in wood barrels and is meant to be drunk pure. Its flavour is influenced by the type of wood the barrel is made of.


The traditional way to drink pure cachaça (white or gold) is to sip it in a small 50 ml glass. Cachaça tasters let the drink linger inside their mouths in order to savor the aftertaste. It is best tasted slowly but is sometimes consumed as a shot, like vodka. This alternative way to drink cachaça is in a short and slim glass called "martelinho" ("little hammer"). Because the glass is narrow the alcohol will not evaporate so fast, thus reducing the smell (considered foul by some).


In Brazil there are many different types of cocktails in which cachaça is the base ingredient, this list is not meant to be exhaustive.


A cold cocktail made of cachaça, limes, and sugar. It is the most popular Brazilian cocktail, both in Brazil and in the rest of the World. The combination of sour (lime) and sweet (sugar) flavors with the strong taste of cachaça makes its character.


A very popular drink made of cachaça and red gooseberry syrup ("groselha").


Hot drink traditionally prepared in "Festas Juninas" ("June Festivals", popular celebrations influenced by Portuguese tradition and commemorating Saints John the Baptist, Peter and Anthony of Padova - also known as Anthony of Lisbon). Prepared mixing cachaça and a boiling syrup made with ginger, clove and cinnamon. It is served boiling hot; "quentão" is the superlative form of "quente" (hot), referring both to the temperature of the drink and its spicy taste. A variant where cachaça is replaced by cheap red wine is known as "vinho quente" - literally, "hot wine". It is often claimed (inaccurately) that ethanol content is lowered after its evaporation, avoiding the social stigmatization associated with drinking cachaça.

"Leite de Onça"

A cold drink also popular in "Festas Juninas", it is made of milk, condensed milk, cinnamon and cachaça. The name means "jaguar milk".


"Rabo-de-Galo" is a mixture of cachaça and red vermouth. The name is a calque of "cocktail".

"Capeta or Capetão"

A strong hot cocktail made of cachaça, cinnamon, some fruit juice (usually cherry, strawberry or grape) vodka, red wine and sugar which is served in large portions, with dry ice added to enhance the fumes. The name means "devil" or "demon".

Other Mixtures

Popular ingredients added to cachaça are cinnamon, lime juice, honey and anise. Honey is especially popular in Minas Gerais.


Cold cocktails made from fruit juices or pulps mixed with cachaça, sugar and crushed ice; sometimes condensed milk is also be added (or replaces the sugar). Passion fruit, coconut, lemon and pineapple are the most popular variants.


Variants of European liqueur prepared infusing fruits or parts (roots, seeds or barks) of aromatic plants on cachaça, with addition of sugar or honey to obtain a sweet beverage. Traditionally home-made, specially on countryland, and kept on fancy bottles to be served after meals to guests. The most appreciated "licores" are those made of cocoa, jabuticabas, mint, cherry, figs and peanuts.

List of regional names for cachaça

The name "cachaça" is now a trademark owned by the Brazilian producers and used for export purposes. However, before the standardisation of cachaça, each Brazilian region had its distinctive name for the same beverage. All around Brazil you can hear people call cachaça with the most different names, such as:
* Pinga, from the verb "pingar" ("to drop");
* Cana (cane, sugar cane) and its diminutive, "caninha";
* Aguardente, "burning (or flaming) water", used to be its formal name and is still used for industrialised cachaças;
* Mé, mispoken "mel" ("honey"), because it sweetens life;
* Marvada ("malvada" with the Minas Gerais state accent, "the evil" or "the meanie", feminine form);
* Água-que-passarinho-não-bebe ("water that birds won't drink");
* Cangibrina;
* Branquinha (from the clear color of the unaged distillate);
* Aquela-que-matou-o-guarda ("the one that killed the cop")
* Manguaça;
* Mardita ("maldita" with the Minas Gerais' accent, "the damned", feminine form);

It must be noted that Tiquira, although often used as a synonym for cachaça, is actually another drink, made of manioc starch, that was found over the Brazilian North and North-East in colonial times. The Aurélio dictionary lists dozens of popular names for this beverage.

ee also

* List of Brazilian dishes
* Cocktails with cachaça
* List of cocktails with cachaça
* Caipirinha
* Rum
* Vodka
* List of Brands of Cachaça
* Aguardente
* [ Discussion about cachaça and rum]

References and notes

External links

* [ State of Paraty Tourism Website] Information in Portuguese on cachaca production
* [ O Álbum Virtual de Rótulos de Garrafas de Cachaça na Net] Web site dedicated to cachaça labels. In English and Portuguese.

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