As excitement builds toward the 2014 FIFA World Cup tournament -- taking place from June 12 through July 13 -- those of us not headed south can still find many ways to celebrate as though we were in Brazil. And there is no better cocktail to toast your favorite team than with Brazil's ubiquitous national drink: the caipirinha, combining ice, sugar, lime and cachaça.
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"Everyone in Brazil drinks caipirinhas. Go to Ipanema beach and there are usually street vendors that come up to you and hand them out," said Nate Whitehouse, co-founder of Avuá Cachaça, an artisanal label. "They dress up as Bedouins, and walk around with long-flowing robes on and sell Lebanese delicacies along with this refreshing drink."
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For the uninitiated, cachaça is a distilled spirit made from sugarcane juice and sometimes aged in indigenous Brazilian wood barrels to impart terroir. While American drinkers may be less accustomed to the taste, it’s actually the third-most consumed spirit in the world behind soju and vodka, said Whitehouse, and predates molasses-based rum production.
"Cachaça is still gaining traction stateside," concurred Scott Hocker, editor in chief of Liquor.com. "But once people try it, most drinkers fall for its rough-edged charm and drinkability."
The most frequent comparisons for cachaça in terms of flavor profile fall somewhere between rum and tequila.
"It has the same sugar cane base as rum, so they're estranged cousins," Hocker told ABC News. "Cachaca also has a lived-in bite like tequila. Those two are like brothers from another mother."
The earthy characteristics allow it to pair well with the muddled lime in a traditional caipirinha. But for those who eschew citrus, Hocker recommends muddling other fruit "for a gentle spin on the classic."
In an attempt to court armchair enthusiasts with no interest in even minor mixology, a pre-made caipirinha product was recently launched by Cuca Fresca Imports in the U.S., combining Cuca Fresca's unaged silver cachaça with "natural lime flavors."
"After years of development, we have created a ready-to-serve cocktail that captures the fresh, lively lime flavor of a Caipirinha that is made from scratch without the hassle of muddling," Phoenix Kelly-Rappa, managing partner of Cuca Fresca, said in a statement.
But if all else fails, one can always throw back a "Caju Amigo," a shot of cachaça downed with a piece of cashew nut, and shout "Saude!" for the simplest way to cheer on the match.
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