Brazil cachaça maker seeks improved caipirinhas, fewer hangovers

Wed Jul 9, 2014 1:47pm EDT
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By Angelica Ramos

BETIM Brazil (Reuters) - For some people, a couple of caipirinhas, the powerful Brazilian cocktail, are just what is needed to take the edge off the stress of a hard day's work.

But for others, including more than a few visitors to this year's soccer World Cup, even a single caipirinha (pronounced kai-per-REEN-ya) will leave them with a monster hangover.

Luiz Otavio Goncalves, 72, wants to change that.

Goncalves is one of the country's boutique producers of "cachaça" – the powerful sugar-cane liquor that is the main ingredient - some would say "poison" - in a caipirinha.

A mix of crushed lime and sugar, ice and cachaça (pronounced ka-SHA-sah), the caipirinha has been spreading beyond Brazil to bars around the world.

But the cocktail's popularity, Goncalves says, has encouraged cachaça producers to churn out cheap, impure cachaças and for bartenders to mix them into their drinks, increasing the chance of a hangover.

In Brazil, the world's top sugarcane producer, there are more than 2,700 different brands of cachaça, Goncalves said. The stuff is strong. A bottle normally contains 38 to 54 percent alcohol. Hiding cheap cachaça in a caipirinha is made easy by the cocktail's sharp tastes.

"They normally use cheap cachaça to make caipirinhas because you mix it with lime and sugar," said Goncalves who makes his Vale Verde, or "Green Valley" cachaças from cane he grows on a 30-hectare (74-acre) plantation in Brazil's central-highland state of Minas Gerais.   Continued...