Our New York bars are moving cachaça on from its caipirinha rut. Here’s how to drink the Brazilian sugar-cane spirit now
You may not have heard of cachaça, but if you’ve ever had a caipirinha, you’ve already tried it. This bright and citrussy cocktail is Brazil’s national drink; shacks that line its beaches serve caipirinhas to sip on the sand. It got a moment of global popularity when Brazil hosted the football World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. But now cachaça, which is made from sugarcane juice and is the star spirit in caipirinhas, is ready to do more. “It’s definitely an underrated spirit,” says Soho House New York bars manager Ben Fitzgerald. “I don’t think it’s been explored enough.”
Cachaça can shine in drinks as the main spirit or as an aromatic accent. “It’s super versatile, with bright floral notes, and pairs with a lot of things like sherry and vermouth,” adds Ben.
Different Houses carry a range of cachaça brands, such as Leblon and Avua, on the back bar and will also showcase it in signature cocktails. Currently, for example, Ludlow House’s Ducked Up restaurant features the Bodhisattva, a tiki cocktail made with demerara sugar, cinnamon, pineapple, lime, dark rum and Avua cachaça. “Each ingredient brings a great component,” says Ludlow House bars manager Christine Kang (pictured above). “The inspiration for this is a daiquiri, with more weight and spice and heart, but still very refreshing.”
Cachaça doesn’t yet have the name recognition or the fanbase of spirits like vodka, whisky and tequila, but drinks like the Bodhisattva are gateway cocktails that serve to introduce it to members and guests. “So the next time you see cachaça on a menu, you can go for it instead of wondering what it is or whether you’d like it,” says Christine. “You have a point of reference and can go from there.”