Folklore has it that cachaça was conceived and originally consumed around 400 years ago by slaves who started to drink the liquid that fermented out of the sugar cane plantations. Plantation owners began to serve this liquid to their slaves after noticing its positive effects, such as increased vigor, experienced by the slaves who consumed it.
According to the Brazilian Association of Spirits (ABRABE), Brazil has 4,000 brands of cachaça and the country produces 1 billion liters of the beverage per year. During the last decade cachaça has also gained popularity on an international level. The product is exported to the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Canada, Australia, and several other countries. Exports in 1994 totaled $3.5 million and surpassed exports in 1992 by 33%.
Export markets prefer smaller (unknown) brands instead of domestically popular brands. Nega Fulô, for example, one of the favorite cachaças overseas, exported $1.4 million in 1993.
The renewed popularity of the product has given rise to pirate activity. There are so many illegal versions selling on the streets of Brazil, that Havana, a popular brand made in the north of Minas Gerais, is about to call it quits. Havana is considered to be one of the best cachaças in Brazil. A large part of Havana's appeal is the fact that it is very rare, due to the limited annual production of 600 thousand liters. Havana's proprietor's intention to stop production is due not only to illegal versions, but also to the high taxes imposed on alcohol.
Cachaça is no longer stigmatized as the drink-of-the-poor-masses. The alcoholic beverage now appeals to a trendy, young and upper-class clientele. It is possible to order various cachaça drinks in any of several fashionable Brazilian bars and nightclubs. Some of these concoctions are the Caipitetra (orange, honey, mint and cachaça) and the Granada Brasileira (passion fruit, cream, sugar and cachaça). Nevertheless, cachaça does continue to be purchased by the lower classes, basically due to the potent combination of high alcoholic content and a cheap price.
The English magazine Drinks International ranks cachaça (primarily the brand Pirassununga 51) among the five most consumed distilled liquors in the world. Pirassununga 51 is produced in Pirassununga in the state of São Paulo. Pirassununga sold 206 million liters in 1993, and 200 million liters in 1994, whereas the world-wide rum producer Bacardi sold 180 million liters in 1993. A large portion of cachaça sales are made to Brazilians who consume, on average, two billion liters of cachaça per year, what translates into 13 liters for each man, woman and child in the country.
Brazil's metropolitan state of São Paulo is the heart of the production, distribution and consumption of cachaça. Two brands, Caninha 51 and Velho Barreiro, dominate the market share of this southern state. Caninha 51 has 27.7% of the national market share whereas Velho Barreiro is slightly lower at 10%.
During 1994, approximately $89 million was spent on advertisement by the major producers and distributors of cachaça. The advertisement is very state-specific. Research and development funds are set aside for marketing that is designed to capture the current trends, styles and attitudes accepted and displayed by each of Brazil's states.
For instance, São Paulo's brand Caninha 51's advertisement includes billboards which feature the TV comedian and, its spokesperson, Chico Anysio. Movie theater trailer ads show Chico Anysio in the roles of a drunk, a politician and a Don Juan, each enjoying Caninha 51 appropriately (according to the personality of the character).
Caninha 51's movie theater trailer ads are filmed differently for the audiences of smaller Brazilian towns. The ads still feature Chico Anysio, but this time the comedian discusses benefits of the drink, in addition to its taste, such as its practical packaging and the clear color of the liquid.
Walter Guelfi, the VP of Lage & Magy, the agency in charge of the advertisement for Caninha 51, says that the tailor-made-by-state ads have been instrumental in helping Caninha 51 gain and retain market share. The Lage & Magy agency's new advertising campaign is called Agent 51. The Agent 51 ad places employees of the advertisement agency in various bars throughout the state of Paraná.
These employees, masquerading as customers, wait for someone to order Caninha 51. As soon as someone does order the drink, both the customer and the bar owner win prizes. The prizes awarded so far have been bicycles, videocassettes and electronic equipment. Caninha 51's competitor and current market leader, in Paraná, is Caninha Jamel.
Similarly, the cachaça Velho Barreiro also devotes a large portion of revenues to advertisement expense. Velho Barreiro's most popular slogan is an amusing piece called Chama o Velho (call the old man -- a word play on the brand name). The ad had its debut on television and later on radio stations in São Paulo and in the Northern part of the country.
Carlos Leão, of the agency Fisher & Justus, prefers to concentrate media advertisement efforts on television advertisements. Fisher & Justus is the agency responsible for the advertisement for Velho Barreiro. Fisher & Justus is also the agency that was the brainchild of the popular slogan Número 1 (Number 1) for Brahma during the 1994 soccer World Cup in the US.
Velho Barreiro is one of the most sophisticated brands of cachaça and as such one would expect it to appeal to the upper class, but, according to the agency, the advertisements have been effective in reaching the local (neighborhood) bar clientele, which, in Brazil, tends to be middle and lower class.
The cachaça brand Caninha da Roça prefers to sponsor radio shows instead of the traditional television advertisement. José Luiz de Barros, President of marketing at Caninha da Roça, prefers to advertise in Rio where the firm enjoys a market share of 49.5%. In addition to radio shows, Caninha da Roça advertises in the form of promotions or give-aways such as napkins decorated with the company logo, among several other similar items.
Cachaça might soon have its own special day. The SBC (Sociedade Brasileira da Cachaça) wants to declare June 12 the International Day of Cachaça because June 12, 1744, Portugal, then colonizer of Brazil, prohibited the production and distribution of cachaça in the country.
Enough of statistics, market data and other general information; I urge you to indulge in a cachaça cocktail prepared in any of the ways mentioned in the recipes section. Although, you might want to start the traditional way, which also happens to be my favorite, with cachaça, lime, ice and sugar. Enjoy!
Pitu = 11.1%
Velho Barreiro = 10%
Caninha Oncinha = 6.4%
Caninha da Roça = 4.2%
Caninha Jamel = 3.4%
Others = 37.2%
Rabo de Galo (rooster's tail): One of the most popular cachaça recipes. Combine 2/3 cachaça and 1/3 red Cinzano. Ice is optional.
Macaca's Milk: Combine 1/3 cachaça, 1/3 coconut milk, 1/3 condensed milk, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and cinnamon. Blend and serve on ice.
Arrastão: 1 shot of cachaça, 1 shot of grape juice, 3 canned peaches, 1 spoon of sugar, 1 spoon of instant coffee and 1 spoon of egg whites. Blend and serve on ice.
Balalaika: 3/5 cachaça, 2/5 grape juice, 2 spoons of sugar, 1 spoon of instant coffee, 1 spoon of egg whites. Blend and serve on ice.
Alvorada: 2/8 cachaça, 1/8 maracujá (passion fruit) juice, 2/8 orange juice, 1/8 lemon juice, 2/8 condensed milk. Blend and serve on ice.
Royal Bee: 2/3 cachaça, 1/3 Campari, 3 cherries, 1 spoon of honey. Blend, drain and serve on ice.
Spanish: 2/3 cachaça, 2/3 melon juice, 1/6 pineapple juice, 1/6 lemon juice, 1 spoon of sugar. Blend and serve on ice.
Abrideira (the opener)
Água benta (holy water)
Água que passarinho não bebe (water that the bird doesn't drink)
Aguardente (burning water)
Arrebenta peito (chest smasher)
Assovio de cobra (snake's whistle)
Branquinha (little white one)
Capote-de-pobre (poorman's coat)
Desmancha samba (samba unraveler)
Engasga gato (cat choker)
Já começa (it already starts)
Lindinha (little pretty one)
Mata bicho (beast killer)
Meu consolo (my consolation)
Pinga (it drops)
Purinha (little pure one)
Sete virtudes (seven virtues)
Suor de alambique (alembic's sweat)