Cachaca is a very common alcoholic beverage that is enjoyed across Brazil as well as much of South America. It is very similar to rum however there are a few differences that make it very unique. The spirit is available throughout the world and placed into some very famous cocktails. Brazil alone is estimated to consume about 390 million gallons of the product every year.
Cachaca is considered to be a fairly high alcohol content beverage, ranging between 38 an 54%. It is made with sugar cane just like rum is, however there is one distinct difference in the process. Rum is made with molasses, after the crystallization of the sugar has taken place. Cachaca is made before the crystallization takes place. It is made from fresh sugarcane juice that is fermented and distilled.
There are two varieties that you will find in liquor stores:
The un-aged variety is white and is usually much more affordable. It is bottled immediately after the distillation process and will be as young as days or as old as 12 months depending upon the brand that is producing it.
The aged variety, also referred to as artisanal, will be gold and aged around 3 years, though there are some premium versions that have been aged as long as fifteen years. The flavor from these is influenced heavily by the barrel used to age them in.
You will be able to buy Cachaca throughout the world. While it is made in Brazil, it is very commonly exported, though not readily enjoyed as much as the Brazilians. The export quantity that goes out to the rest of the world is only a small percentage in comparison to what is consumed within the country. That said, you should be able to find a bottle of the spirit at any local liquor store and will be seated near the rums. If your store doesn't have it, head online to one of the many spirit shops to get a bottle.
Unless you are going to a specialty restaurant that specializes in cocktails or South American cuisine, cachaca will not be likely. Many restaurants and bars will substitute rum for any drinks traditionally made with the alcohol.
There are a few ways to enjoy cachaca, depending upon what kind you buy. If you buy the aged, golden variety, it is best drunk straight or over ice, much like a scotch. The un-aged, clear version is used in the Batida as well as the national cocktail of Brazil, the Caipirinha.
The Batida is more of a milkshake, using the alcohol, fruit juice or coconut milk and sugar. It can be shaken with ice or blended. The Caipirinha uses cachaca, ice, lime, and sugar. It is all blended together and then served. There are variations where you can add raspberry or other fruity syrups to boost the flavor. It vodka is used instead of the Brazilian spirit, it is called a caipiroska.