Tag Archives: Cachaca

What to bring back from Brazil – The Essentials

6 Apr

You see, what I’ve gone and done already is I’ve lied. I’ve gone and called this article ‘The Essentials.’ There really is no essentials and even if there was I don’t think I’d be the person to be telling folk about them. This really is just my idea of some interesting things to bring back from Brazil, or even just interesting things to buy while in Brazil. A few ideas that shy away from the normal Christ statue and Brazil football shirt.

1. Cachaca

This is quite an obvious choice for me but it’s got to be done. For between 5 and 6 Reais you can pick up a bottle of Velho Barreiro, by far my favourite of the cachacas, or at least of the dirt-cheap cachacas. Plus, as an added bonus it comes in this fancy bottle which makes it seem like a fine rum, or at least something that would cost you up to 20 pounds, not the 2 pounds that it will actually cost you. It’s the perfect gift. The only other alternative for this price is 51, which is pretty good in Caipirinhas but pretty bob for all else.

2. Aviação Butter

Aviacao - Manteiga de Primer Qualidade

This may seem like an odd choice. It is butter after all. But Aviacao butter is like no other. It has one unparalleled asset. On the front of the tin is a picture of a cow with a plane flying above it. You don’t get this with just any butter ya know!

Plus, this butter has a lot of history, it’s a tin that has lasted for many generations of Brazilians, and is something they use a lot. As butters go it’s very distinctive, probably due to the fact that they have added about a kilo of salt into each tin. The best way to enjoy it is with some boiled root vegetables (add it just before eating), i.e. potatoes, parsnips or batatas barao (if you’re in Brazil) and enjoy!

3. Rapadura

Rapadara - unrefined sugarcane

Rapadura is unrefined sugar straight from the sugarcane factories. It’s pretty darn common in Brazil and is also the healthiest way to sweeten anything (or maybe I should say joint-healthiest as jaggery is also pretty good). Even brown sugar and demerera are refined in some way, making rapadura one of the purest you can find. Buying it in Europe and North America is possible but costs a fortune compared to its price in Brazil. Buy a block I say and then whenever you are making something with sugar, simply use a bit of rapadura instead of the usual stuff.

Interestingly, the Germans at some point decided that they’d come up with the name ‘rapadura’ and managed to trademark it, meaning that whenever this stuff was exported from Brazil they would have to cover up the name or design new packaging. A ridiculous situation which I believe has now been resolved, but only after one of the Brazilian sugarcane companies spent years trying to copyright ‘sauerkraut’ to show those Germans what it felt like to have something copyrighted which you love so much!

4. Havaianas

Havaianas

Wait a second, this one doesn’t involve food. I think I’ve made a mistake! Okay, so maybe there is room for one entry here that doesn’t involve shoving things into my gob. Everyone who goes to Brazil should buy some Havaianas. There are stores on just about every corner selling them, plus there is the beautifully-designed new store on Rua Oscar Freire in Sao Paulo. I bought several pairs; they do make good presents. Anyone venturing to Brazil should wait until they arrive before buying any flip-flops, there is so much choice and they are unbelievably cheap, between 7 and 25 Reais, which equates to between 2 and 8 pounds.

I think that’s about it for now. Maybe I’ll make this a part one if I can think of anything else that I’ve missed. Otherwise, there you have it, a very brief idea of some things that are definitely uniquely Brazilian that you should buy.

Cachaça, more than just Brazilian rum

8 Mar

There are two main reasons that I’ve been writing less since I arrived in Trindade (on the green coast of Rio state). First is the fact that being in a small fishing village with rainforests on all sides and a plethora of beaches doesn’t make sitting down and spending a good portion of the day on the internet a tempting option. The second is cachaça. This is the national drink of Brazil, and is used to make caipirinhas, a cocktail made from mixing cachaça, lime, sugar and ice, and which is increasingly becoming popular in other countries. This is reflected in the price, with caipirinhas sold in the bars of Rio, Sao Paulo and any-other tourist-leaning city for upto 15 or 20 Reais, which is about 5 pounds, and ridiculously over-priced. Until 1990 cachaça and caipirinhas were both drinks primarily of the working class. The word caipirinha is derived from the word caipira, which means something along the lines of country bumpkin in portuguese. After that point brewers started making artesanal cachaças by aging the drink (made by distilling sugarcane, in a similar process to most brandies) in wooden casks, giving the alcohol a deeper flavour as well as colouring it a golden brown. In addition, the rising popularity of caipirinhas in the United States meant that exports became a lot more common and that visitors were more aware of this drink, which was now available in pretty much every bar you can find in Brazil.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/3146602528/

To buy a bottle of unaged cachaça will set you back around 5 Reais. Considering you can then get around 20 or more caipirinhas from that bottle it’s no surprise that bars are more than willing to bask in its popularity and sell it for 15 Reais a glass. Drinking cachaça in this way is only the tip of the iceberg though. Since arriving in Trindade I’ve discovered far more ways in which people enjoy it. It’s not too surprising that this village would be so steeped in the drink, it’s an hour’s bus journey from Paraty, a place generally seen as some kind of cachaça capital. The drink was in fact actually known as paraty before its other titles of cachaça and pinga (which is more common here) were introduced. In addition, they hold the Pinga Festival every August where a mountain of artesanal cachaças and cachaças flavoured with all kinds of fruits and spices are available as shots from hundreds of vendors on the street.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonnycocker/2852010952/

My current poison and reason for spending many daylight hours flat out when I really should be doing something more productive is Gabriela. This is cachaça infused with honey, cloves and cinnamon. Thanks to these spices it does have something of the mulled wine about it and it most certainly warms up the stomach. I’ve also been told that in the south of Brazil they drink a very similar thing which they serve hot (I’m guessing on those days when the temperature is only 15 degrees or someting). There’s a bar on Praia dos Ranchos here in Trindade, called Rogerio’s, who only plays vinyl records, all of which are from the 70s and 80s. Nights spent drinking Gabriela and listening to scratchy Led Zeppelin and Supertramp records have becoming something quite legendary, at least in my eyes anyway!

Another great tipple is Pinga com Mel, which is quite simply cachaça with honey. Even stronger than gabriela but half the price at just 2 Reais a glass (that’s less than one pound) it’s too strong for me to drink solidly. I prefer a beer by the side just to take the edge off every now and again.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lperdigao/172905311/

There is something that will always appeal to me about these drinks over the over-priced caipirinhas. It seems simple to me. If you want a caipirinha then you buy a bottle of cachaça and a few limes and make your own, and if you want to drink what the people drink, then you look for the shoddy-looking old water machine in the corner, or the jerry can with a price on the side, to get a taste of what the people actually drink, and also get a little bit fuzzy in the mouth at the same time.

Crackdown in Lapa

11 Aug

Lapa’s crazy on a Saturday night so we headed away from the arches, where the noise of drums, samba and drunk gringos is inescapable. First stop was The Museum of Cachaça. It’s a room about 10 foot x 10 foot. Hanging from the ceiling is a brand of cachaça from possibly every town in Brazil. Normally, there would be seats and tables surrounding its entrance but the Police are out in force. There´s a new mayor and he´s brought with him 2 initiatives. First is the ´dry law´. Random checks are happening all over the city as they look to combat drink driving. Although the drivers are fighting back. They´ve found out a new use for Twitter. There are dozens of people using their iPhones (or whatever the equivalant is in Rio) posting updates on where the ´dry law´ police are stopping cars every night. The second new initiative is to stop bars placing a ridiculous amount of tables and chairs on the pavement and quite often on the road as they look to get as many customers comfortable as is humanely possible.

We didn´t fancy standing in the street so we decided to look elsewhere. After a few blocks we came to a brothel-themed bar. I can´t remember its Portuguese name but I was told it translated as ´House of the Whore´. The waiters wore red and white vertical-striped tops and there was lingerie hanging from the ceiling. I don´t remember seeing any whores. We signalled for three people and the waiter lifted up a table, planting it right in front of us. We grabbed a beer and sat down. After drinking about half of it, 5 police cars suddenly pulled up alongside us. The waiter instantly ran over, took our table and flew off round the back. Some guy wearing glasses and a huge belly came out of the bar, heading straight for the cops. I think he was the owner. He was desperately trying to avoid what I can only assume was a massive fine. The waiter came back over saying ´I told you not to put that table there.´ Cheeky bastard. There was no way we were paying the 10% service charge after that. No way mister!