Posts Tagged ‘Cachaça’

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10 Brazilian drinks as cool as caipirinha

January 26, 2010

Cachaças that are worth a meal

Caipirinha – a mix of sugar cane spirit (cachaça), crushed lime, white sugar and ice – is a big hit among foreigners that visit Brazil. It is pretty much everywhere in the country and many Brazilian families own the special wooden mortar used to prepare the beverage. Caipirinha and its variations, such as caipiroska (with vodka) or saquerinha (with sake), are just a tiny sample of popular Brazilian drinks.

Follow me in the discovery of other national specialties. Most of them carry cachaça (also known as pinga, aguardente de cana, caninha or “a brava“/”the nasty one”):

  1. Batidas – This mix of cachaça, fruit, ice and lots of sugar is a favorite in the kiosks that line the Brazilian coast. You name the fruit – maracujá (passion fruit), coco (coconut), morango (strawberry). In fact, caipirinha is just one more type of batida.
  2. Meia de seda (probably named after pantyhose because it is a girlie drink) – Those with a really sweet tooth can try this mix of 1/3 of gin, 1/3 cacao liqueur (made with the fruit, not cocoa), 1 spoon of sugar and cinnamon (some recipes abolish the gin or substitute it by rum). Sort of old-fashioned, a souvenir of the golden fifties.
  3. Aluá – There are several recipes for this drink popular in the Northeast states (Bahia, Ceará and Pernambuco, among others), that may or not be alcoholic. You mix one pinapple´s peel, two litters of water, brown sugar, cloves and grated ginger. The skin of the pineapple should be kept in water for a whole night to get fermented. The longer it remains in water, the more alcoholic the beverage. This water is strained and mixed to the other ingredients.
  4. Cachaça puraCachaça, the Brazilian equivalent of rum, is made of the fermented sugarcane juice. There are probably a few thousand of brands, some extremely refined, some too bad to be mentioned. A recent contest promoted by cachaça experts chose the best artisan brands produced in the state of Minas Gerais (which  basically means in Brazil). The winners were Diva (from Divinópolis, a white cachaça), Pirapora (from the city of same name, an aged cachaça) and Áurea Custódio (from Ribeirão das Neves, a premium cachaça). Also Playboy magazine published a cachaça ranking (here ordered from first to fifth place): Anísio Santiago/Havana (from the city of Salinas), Vale Verde (Betim), Claudionor (Januária), Germana (Nova União) and Magnífica (Vassouras). They are all from Minas Gerais, apart from the last one, from the state of Rio. And here you find a large list of Brazilian cachaças, including their origins and alcoholic degrees.
  5. Think Green – This complex cocktail, by Rogério “Rabbit” Barroso, considered one of the best Brazilian bartenders, was one of the finalists of  the latest edition of the World Cocktail Competition. It includes Bacardi, Marie Brizard Lemon Grass, Midori, champagne and pineapple juice.
  6. Porradinha – A classic among college students. Grown-ups tend to be ashamed of drinking this in public. You should fill half a metal cup with cachaça. Add a small amount of Sprite or some similar soda. Cover the cup with your hand, lift it and hit the table (that movement could be described as porradinha). The volume of the drink will grow quickly, so drink it in only one sip.
  7. Submarino – Typical of the Southern states, mixes a dose of Steinhäger (a beverage made of juniper) and a cup of draft beer. Originally, German immigrants would drink both spirits separately, but simultaneously. In Brazil, we turn the cup with Steinhäger face down inside a larger cup. Then pour beer inside. The Steinäger “escapes” into the beer.

If you don’t drink alcohol, there are a few Brazilian drinks that have merits of their own:

  1. GuaranáThe national soft drink is made of guaraná, an Amazonian fruit that is an energy booster – it has twice the caffeine of coffee beans. Guaraná, the soda, has very small amounts of guaraná, the fruit, though, unlike guaraná powder, sold in vitamin shops.

    Guaraná

  2. Juices – In the Amazon, try the ones made of cupuaçu, bacuri or açaí. In the Northeast, the options are limitless. Mango, cashew (the fruit, not the nut on top of it), siriguela, jaca (jackfruit), cajá. All of these are available in major cities all around the country (made of frozen pulp, in most cases).
  3. GarapaFor those with a sweet tooth, the sugar cane juice is available in street markets practically everywhere in the country. Sometimes lime or pineapple are added to the beverage.

Now that you have all you need to be an accomplished Brazilian barman (or woman), check my post on great Brazilian dishes.  After all, you don’t want to drink on an empty stomach.

Enjoy! Saúde!

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Floods in Summerland

January 6, 2010

It happens every single summer, in many cities of South-Southeast Brazil. The rain season literally destroys whole communities, namely those installed on river margins or on steep slopes. Those who cannot afford to move to less risky areas.

Once I interviewed this lady who lived by the Tamanduateí, in São Paulo, a river whose margins are paved in such a way that the overflow has nowhere to go but into people’s lives. She described how her husband carried her into the house when they got married – not because he was romantic, but because the first floor was flooded. Then she showed me how she managed to survive under water – she installed several platforms to keep the phone and the TV out of reach and a pulley to lift the furniture whenever it rained strong.

Two huge tragedies in the last few weeks showed that even very touristic cities are not at bay. In Angra dos Reis, the resort in the state of Rio known for its hundreds of islands and yacht clubs, a landslide destroyed an upscale pousada (a small resort) and killed at least 30 people. In São Luiz do Paraitinga, a cute little town in the state of São Paulo, known for its traditional music and cachaça (sugar cane alcoholic beverage),  at least 50 buildings in the historic part of the city may fall. The two main churches, the city hall, the archives, the library – all of them were destroyed.

These episodes aren’t accidental. Every year, specialists come up with explanations that combine the following causes:

  • Expansion of housing projects and shanty towns into areas that are regularly flooded (cheap and available land). Local governments seem to have little power to refrain these settlements and sometimes even stimulate them, emitting building permits where no one should ever build.
  • Deforestation of river margins and slopes. Once there are no roots holding the mud, it slides to the bottom of the waterways, reducing their capacity of absorbing the water.
  • Making the soil impermeable by cementing every inch of free land. Once the water hits the cement, it has nowhere to go, but into the buildings. By the way, this is a huge cultural problem: everywhere you go in Brazil, poor or rich neighborhoods, you will notice homeowners choose to cement their yards and driveways, removing all the vegetation.
  • Bad planning and miscalculations of hydro power dams. These constructions frequently change the course of rivers and remove lots of vegetation, unbalancing the water cycle.
  • Climate change, that makes the weather unpredictable and generates more storms in regions where they were not so frequent.

All these causes don’t seem to get any better, year after year. Next Summer, Brazilians will be enjoying the beach – except for those that will be mourning their deads and their losses.

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10 unforgettable Brazilian dishes you never heard of

November 14, 2009
Brazilian food - tacacá

Selling tacacá in Belém

You most certainly heard of, or even tasted, churrasco (barbecue) and feijoada (a complex meal that includes a stew of black beans with pork and several side dishes, including rice, collard greans, pealed orange, cassava flour, red pepper sauce and our national distilled beverage, cachaça).

Now, can you tell me what a buchada de bode is? Or pato no tucupi?

Here I list 10 classics, not necessarily easy to digest, but amazing windows to Brazilian culture. The links lead to recipes, whenever possible in English:

  1. Cuscuz – Despite having the same origin as the Moroccan couscous, it looks and tastes way different. In São Paulo, where I come from, it is made with corn flour, olives, tomatoes, eggs, peas, sardines and has the look of a decorated cake.
  2. Barreado – Typical of the coast of the southern state of Paraná, it probably originates from the Portuguese Azores islands. This meat stew served with rice is  prepared in a very peculiar way. It is cooked in a clay pot for around 20 hours – the time needed for the meat fibers to be dissolved in a thick sauce. The pot is layered with banana leaves and its outside is covered with hardened manioc flour paste, in order to avoid the heat to escape. Read the rest of this entry ?