January 11th, 2008

Cachaca — it’s rum

Beija CachacaI 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.

Permalink | Filed under Cocktails, Rum |

12 Responses to “Cachaca — it’s rum”

  1. Jay Hepburn

    That Red Hook variation sounds interesting… I’m out of Cachaça at the moment but when I get some I will definitely be trying it.

  2. Adam

    Thanks for the tips; I haven’t tried this brand yet, but that drink with the Punt e Mes and Maraschino sounds great.

    The best cachaca I’ve tried so far is this one: http://www.belezapura.com/

    … by “best,” I mean most interesting. It’s an incredibly smooth spirit, with none of the burn of Cachaca 51, but at the same time it has quite a bit of flavor — kind of on the woodsy/smoky end of things. Very nice on the rocks with just a squeeze of lime. Definitely not a cachaca for the vodka martini crowd :)

  3. ljclark

    Yeah, this is a spirit I admit I know very little about. Beija is the first one I’ve tasted neat, in fact. It was a completely different creature from most rums I’ve known. And it just goes to show how varied the rum category is overall.

  4. Roger

    I stop by the event and tried a few cocktails and I have to admit that it was nothing like I expected. I always hated rum and the fact that I loved this Beija Cachaca really surprised me. I enjoyed every single drink that I had. I’m buying myself some…

  5. Stephen

    cachaca is like liquid smoke… i love that smokiness mingling with really raw beautiful sugar… it becomes americana so easily because we are into barbeque… cachaca also loves cherry… think of an american amador county zinfandel… plump cherry fruit, so juicy, over the top like a cocktail… it craves the smoke of barbeque, and even more fun bacon… in a cocktail when you have cherry or a similar juicy fruit flavor, cachaca can do what that bacon does… its nice to see we have more options than 51 and pitu… cheers.

  6. Camper English

    I’ve noticed something (I find) interesting with cachaca- more than most other spirits, the brands being launched on either coast are often different. I don’t know if the west coast has Beija yet, and Sagatiba was supposed to come long after it was in NY, and I don’t think we have Cabana yet even though I’ve seen ads in a national magazine for it. Yet we have Beleza Pura and Leblon and Boca Loca and Agua Luca.

  7. Stephen

    it cost too much to conquer the national market… wineries try to find markets in specific cities as well… you can work as a waiter in boston for a long time… travel from restaurant to restaurant dealing with more or less the same wines… move to chicago… then all the sudden be freaked out that they deal with a different set of regional cult wines… coturri, the organic producer, is pretty well known here but only in a couple other places… he doesn’t even have enough product to go around…

    a great cachaca that i’ve had is called “amarazem” (spelling?) from an island off the coast of brazil. its carried by commonwealth over here so its really easy to get yet the only restaurant that has it is no. 9 park… its stunning juice but has zero marketing… i want my restaurant to pick it up but they are pretty indifferent to cachaca brands… we haven’t even run out of our present stock since the summer…

  8. ljclark

    Interesting, guys. We all grew up with more or less national brands of spirits. So much of what’s happening in spirits now is coming from little startups trying to get a foothold in a particular region, or even city. Watching this trend develop will be fun, particularly given that the market is more international than ever.

  9. Scottes

    “in 2007 the U.S. government officially designated Beija as the World’s First Virgin Cane Rum.”

    Interesting. Why is it that the ATF and TTTB websites do not contain the word “virgin” according to their search engines? Why does a google search for this phrase find a mere 19 hits?? No hits at all from any government sites. Almost all of those hits seem to pertain to Beija or its marketing. The rest are either blogs, or open sites like Wikipedia.

    I’d have to venture a semi-educated guess that there’s a large number of agricoles and cachacas that would fit the criteria listed on the Wikipedia article about Virgin Cane Rum. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_Cane_Rum)

    From the information that I’ve found so far, it seems like many of us have been duped with another marketing campaign. If anyone from Beija reads this, I’d like to see some proof of all this hype.

  10. ljclark

    Interesting indeed. I assume your educated guess is correct and that the Beija guys have some ‘splainin’ to do.

  11. Gerard Schweitzer

    I do not believe that “virgin cane rum” is a designation at all. It is a fanciful description that the TTB will allow brands to use from time to time, but it does not connote a type of cane or a process according to what I have learned from the TTB sources. the only cachaças that I know that can somehow harvest, mill, ferment and distill in 10 hours are industrial cachaças and they leave much to be desired in terms of taste, nuance, aroma, etc.

  12. Lee

    I’m now looking forward to trying Beija. The one cachaca I have tried and really liked is DiSalinas, used in the caipirinhas at Midwest Grill. According to them, the best cachacas come from Salinas in Brazil. That one was 92 proof.

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