The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio — officially Games of the XXXI Olympiad — will start this weekend, and, as with our own national political conventions of the past two weeks, we’re not sure exactly what’s going to happen, but we know that it will be entertaining.
No matter which teams or individuals you are rooting for (unless your team has already been disqualified — political dig!), you should be drinking, as you watch, cocktails made with cachaça (kuh-SHAA-suh), Brazil’s national spirit, made from freshly squeezed sugar cane. Cachaça is similar to rum, but the latter is made from boiled sugar cane juice or molasses, instead of the fresh stuff.
I tasted half a dozen bottlings of organically made cachaça produced by Novo Fogo in the southern state of Paraná on the edge of the Atlantic rainforest. Each has its individual flavors, based partially on whether it was aged in barrels and, if so, for how long. The regular bottles are priced around $35 each, while the single-barrel is about $300. Here are my tasting notes on the straight cachaças, followed by a recipe for the by-far most popular "cachocktail."
Silver. Slightly pungent crushed cane and pineapple aromas, and a hint of wet vegetables. Fairly smooth, with a light bite at the end, a bit like a grappa.
Gracios. A hint of maple and cinnamon in the nose, with an enjoyable blended flavor of vanilla and cinnamon oil.
Chameleon. Neutral aromas with fairly contained flavors of cracked grains, such as wheat and rye.
Tanager. Savory aromas, but more fragrant than dark ones, somewhat like a fino sherry but with more wood notes.
Barrel-Aged. Light petrol aromas (as with rieslings) plus mature wood flavors that should appeal to bourbon drinkers.
Single Barrel #87. Aged five years, this one has nice pungency with a complex blend of new and old wood flavors.