There’s a certain beauty to cachaça, the national spirit of Brazil, which makes it hard to define. Still somewhat of a newcomer to the U.S. as a spirit category, this fresh cane-juice distillate is actually one of the most consumed spirits in the world. Though many have tried or even regularly order caipirinhas, few drinkers have experienced the nuances of a high-quality cachaça on its own or its versatility in cocktails. Now that more of the “artisanal” category of cachaças — pot-distilled and often aged in barrels made from native Brazilian woods — are available Stateside, bartenders are finding new ways to present this spirit as more than just a rum.
Branching out from the venue’s tropical roots, Maison Premiere bar director Will Elliott’s approach to cachaça is a Collins variation involving lemon citrus, blueberry compote and rich plum brandy from France. Using Avuà Cachaça Tapinhoã — a limited-batch release aged in a rare hardwood — Elliott’s Seven Year Itch cocktail is an admittedly decadent treatment for this full-bodied spirit, and as delicious as it looks. “Other sugarcane distillates get lost in the barrel,” notes Elliott. “There is something about Cachaça that holds up.” The wood aging imparts a spiciness that contrasts with the cane spirit’s grass and caramel aromas.
Considering the recreational, laid-back nature of Brazil and cachaça’s place in the history of that country, drinking rare wood cachaças in somewhat ornate cocktails made with equally equally rare French brandy may seem out of place, but an initial sip of the Seven-Year Itch cocktail quickly puts things back into perspective. While a major portion of cachaças that are consumed might solely be about volume, robust and delicate flavors are really what these newer artisanal cachaças are all about, akin to the way a single-malt scotch might be prized for its incredible palate. In the case of Elliott’s cocktail and others around the country, it’s showing off these spirits in the best way possible, while also moving cachaça into new territories beyond the caipirinha. Enjoy.
The Seven-Year Itch
1 ounce Avuà Cachaça Tapinhoã
1 ounce La Vieille Prune (plum brandy)
¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
¾ ounce lemon cordial
½ ounce blueberry compote
3 dashes Angostura Bitters
- Combine ingredients in a tall Collins glass.
- Add crushed ice and swizzle briefly with a bar spoon.
- Top with more crushed ice and a Velvet Fernet float.
- Add a straw and garnish with microplaned grapefruit and apple slices.
Prep time: 3 minutes