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