With modern “mixologists” wanting to be unique and looking to create a bar program that will stand out among what has become an extremely competitive industry, it’s becoming difficult to find a product that hasn’t already been tainted in the eyes of consumers.
Mixologists are not only looking at new and unique products from their favorite brands, but also spirits from around the world. This includes a rise of cachaça and pisco from South America. Why are these spirits trending? Some reasons include increased exposure through travel, increased exports of cachaca and pisco from South America to the U.S., consumer demand of unique spirits on cocktail menus, and bartender education/curiosity of unique spirits.
We’ve all had nights when thinking twice about ordering a cocktail containing any quantity of one spirit or another, a “hazardous libation.” In response to this, bartenders have been looking to use unique spirits that you might have never heard of (even if they’ve been in front of us this entire time). Here is where we see cachaça and pisco coming into popularity.
Products like Cachaça 51, Ypioca Cachaça Prata and Capel Pisco have more than likely been on the back bar of every bar you have visited, though the bottle you see today may have been sitting there since the day the venue first opened. This is because there was no consumer interest and many bartenders wouldn’t even know how to describe, even pronounce or subsequently use the product if someone did ask her/him.
These products may not have been a concept since the first production of vodka but they have been around as long as gin, give or take a 100 years. In fact, depending on which source used, some state that cachaça was being manufactured in Brazil for almost a century before gin, and that pisco in Peru and Chile was first recorded around a century after that.
The Evolution of Awareness
Access through travel has created interest and demand for a larger range of these products at most local liquor stores and bars/restaurants. A product that had a selection of only a few bottles in the miscellaneous aisle now has a large section filled with multiple variations and a sign dedicated to it, drawing consumer attention. This is the result of a lot of pieces of a larger puzzle coming together. It starts with a trade agreement for export to the U.S. (U.S. and Brazil, for instance). Once that is decided, entrepreneurs from all backgrounds start to reach out to small, local distillers, looking for rights to market and export their product. From there, it’s all about who has the most money to put into increasing production and marketing.
In the past, and up until April 2013, a cachaça brand had to be labeled as Brazilian Rum in order for it to be exported to North America. This meant that any company wishing to see their product on the market had to have different bottles/labels made up, one for distribution to North America and another for the rest of the world. Once these spirits become more visible in liquor stores, consumers start becoming more interested and desiring cocktails made with cachaça and pisco from their local bars.
Finally, once the product is imported, bartenders start getting exposure and experience using the product. Sometimes this involves curiosity or a brand ambassador visiting the venue to educate staff on the product. Bartenders begin by tasting the spirit as it is, neat. Once the flavor profile is discovered, bartenders can decide whether to use it in a cocktail or see if it’s something that can be marketed in the place of vodka to entice more adventurous patrons. Once the product has been tasted, the fun truly begins.
Cachaça and pisco are both stars in classic cocktails fashioned for them, and have been enjoyed abroad for centuries. Let’s start with the Caipirinha, a mix of cachaça, lime and sugar. Pisco is known for the classic cocktail the Pisco Sour, which is totally different than the Caipirinha.
Pisco can be substituted into classic cocktails, including the whiskey sour, where the whiskey is swapped out for pisco, then adding lemon juice, sugar and egg whites to create a cocktail that will knock your socks off. Below are some examples of how cachaça and pisco are being mixed creatively on cocktail menus across the nation:
New Orleans: Sobou
Turn the Beet Around, a spiced daiquiri with beet-infused cachaça and lime
Sante Fe: Secreto Lounge
The Spicy Secreto, a house specialty that is made with cucumbers, lime juice, cane syrup, Novo Fogo Organic Cachaça, Elderflower Liqueur, and a touch of spice
Seattle: Miller’s Guild
The Rose and Dagger, made of Barsol Pisco, lemon, egg whites, rose water, and jalapeño
The Messinian Ruby, made of pisco, allspice, hibiscus, citrus, and orange blossom water
Many factors influence spirits trends, and there’s no doubt that cachaça and pisco are currently stars at the bar.
Have you seen cachaça or pisco on menus in your favorite cocktail bars?