All About Cachaca, Brazil’s Favourite Alcoholic Drink
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If you’ve ever ordered a caipirinha at a cocktail bar, you probably know about the liquor that goes into making it. Cachaca, Brazil’s most popular alcohol, is added to lime muddled with sugar to make a caipirinha, which is in turn Brazil’s most popular cocktail. The spirit forms an important part of not just caipirinhas but also the cultural fabric of Brazil. Distilled from fermented sugarcane juice, cachaca is often used as a substitute for rum in cocktails like mojitos and daiquiris (although it is stronger than rum).

Cachaca contains 38-54 percent alcohol by volume. The liquor can be sweetened by distillers who choose to add sugar, but only if the sugar content remains 6 grams per litre. A higher sugar content requires the alcohol to be labelled "sweetened cachaca." “Aged cachaca" requires at least 50 percent of the liquor to be aged for a year or more. The spirit is mostly clear, but some distillers may add a caramel colour. 

The word "cachaca" has been derived from Africans who worked in sugarcane mills. The foam that collected at the top of cauldrons in which sugarcane was boiled was given this name. Slaves fermented the foam and called it "cachaca". Historically, the spirit is over 400 years old. It was first drunk by Brazilian slaves to give them energy for laborious work and also to dull their pain. A sugar producer named João Fernando Vieira instructed the administrator of his mill that his slaves may begin working only after they had consumed their daily dose of cachaca. Minas Gerais, the governor of the Brazilian state in 1780, called cachaca a "drink of basic foodstuffs" for the slaves, and argued that restrictions on it should be lifted.