taste of the trop­ics

Re­sist­ing the pre­req­ui­site pirate joke, our colum­nist checks out some sugar canebased spir­its – rum and cachaça.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FASHION - MICHAEL CHEANG

Re­sist­ing the pre-req­ui­site pirate joke, our colum­nist checks out some sugar canebased spir­its – rum and cachaça.

WHERE has all the rum gone? Be­yond the usual bot­tles of Bac­ardi and Ha­vana Club, we don’t usu­ally see a lot of rum around Malaysian clubs and pubs.

In fact, there is very lit­tle aware­ness about the spirit in this coun­try, be­yond the fact that pi­rates drink it, and that you can make mo­ji­tos or you can mix your Bac­ardi with Coke. (Some peo­ple I’ve spo­ken to didn’t even know Bac­ardi was rum!) And let’s not even men­tion cachaça, which while tech­ni­cally a type of rum, is in a whole dif­fer­ent cat­e­gory of its own.

Rum and cachaça (pro­nounced ka-sha-sa) are cane spir­its de­rived from the by-prod­ucts of sugar cane such as mo­lasses and juice. Most of the rum in the world is made in the Caribbean, Cen­tral Amer­ica and South Amer­ica, while cachaça (al­though tech­ni­cally a rum) is as­so­ci­ated most ex­clu­sively with Brazil.

Ac­cord­ing to mixol­o­gist Ben Ng of Fluid Alchemy, a lo­cal bev­er­age com­pany, there are ba­si­cally two kinds of rum: in­dus­trial and agri­cul­tural.

“In­dus­trial rum is made from thick black sugar cane mo­lasses. It is a cheaper way to Mixol­o­gist Ben Ng of Fluid Alchemy whip­ping up a cock­tail us­ing Sa­gat­iba cachaça. cachaça n Michael Cheang still has to re­sist the urge to go ‘Ar­rrr!’ ev­ery time he drinks rum.

What makes cachaça so spe­cial is that it is the main in­gre­di­ent in Brazil’s “na­tional cock­tail” – the caipir­inha (of which the ba­sic in­gre­di­ents are cachaça, brown sugar and lime).

Dur­ing our in­ter­view at Cel­sius in Fahren­heit88 in Kuala Lumpur, Ng whipped up sev­eral cock­tails us­ing a cachaça called Sa­gat­iba, which is one of the higher-end va­ri­eties avail­able in the mar­ket right now. We also tried sev­eral vari­a­tions of the caipir­inha.

“(The pop­u­lar­ity of) Cachaça has grown thanks to the cock­tail cul­ture, specif­i­cally be­cause of the caipir­inha, which is very pop­u­lar in Europe. It be­came even more pop­u­lar when bar­tenders in­tro­duced the twisted ver­sions of caipir­inha by adding fruits and flavours to it,” said Ng. “As a re­sult, more cachaça brands started com­ing into the mar­ket, in­clud­ing Sa­gat­iba, which is seen as the first lux­ury cachaça.”

Ac­cord­ing to him, cachaça has a sweet tone, and fresh grassy taste to it. “Cachaça has a very well rounded and eas­ily ac­cepted flavour. It doesn’t have a dom­i­nat­ing flavour, so can mix well with any­thing,” he said. “Good ones like Sa­gat­iba go well with fruits – it has a very fresh sub­tle sweet­ness so when you add fruits, that brings out the char­ac­ter of the fruits in the drink. It also works well with Asian in­gre­di­ents like lemon­grass or gin­ger, or even choco­late.

“Per­son­ally, I like my Sa­gat­iba with gin­ger ale and a twist of lime in it. In Malaysia, we love hav­ing a bot­tle at our ta­ble. So why not have a cachaça with a few mix­ers where you can mix your own long drinks and en­joy them all night long?” Ng con­cluded.

Thirst quencher: Cel­cius Bar’s Pome­gran­ate Caipir­inha Cock­tail,

which uses Sa­gat­iba cachaça, a Brazil­ian sugar cane-based spirit.

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