January 11th, 2008
Cachaca — it’s rum
I attended a party recently that Beija Cachaca hosted at Eastern Standard. Cachaca is Brazilian rum. It’s made from sugar cane juice instead of the more common base for rum, molasses. Kevin Beardsley and Steve Diforio, the two fresh-out-of-college guys who started the company that formulated and now imports and markets Beija, declare that “in 2007 the U.S. government officially designated Beija as the World’s First Virgin Cane Rum.”
I wondered how “virgin cane rum” differs from 10 Cane, another new rum made from virgin sugar cane, or rhum agricole, or other cachacas, for that matter. Apparently, the designation hinges on the fact that the distillation process begins a mere 10 hours after the sugar cane is harvested and pressed. “Other brands allow their sugarcane to wallow in the sun for days before distilling it.” Horrors!
OK, despite the tone of the marketing kit (and the annoyingly predictable packaging featuring “an alluring female figure in profile”), the product is pretty solid. For an 80 proof spirit, it has absolutely no burn, especially compared to the harshness that I’ve heard is the defining characteristic of most cachacas available in the U.S. To me, Beija smelled a lot like sake and had a very soft, somewhat sake-like, dryly fruity taste.
Like most people, I had only ever had cachaca in a Caipirinha (together now, that’s “ky-pir-EEN-ya”), a refreshing mixture of cachaca and muddled lime juice and sugar over ice that is competing with the Mojito for Most Popular Latin American Cocktail. The whole idea of the event (besides getting people like me to write about Beija) was to try cachaca in ways that break free from the Caipirinha. My favorite among the cocktails that Jackson Cannon and his bar crew mixed that night was a variation on the Red Hook: 2 oz Beija (instead of rye) and a 1/2 oz each of Punt e Mes and Luxardo Maraschino. Really nice and mellow. A few of us also tried a Negroni with Beija substituted for gin. We agreed that it didn’t quite work; the Campari overpowered the softer spirit.
Other Boston bars serving Beija are Om in Harvard Square, District and the Vintage Lounge.