Soccer's big moment happens in June as the best players on the planet meet in Brazil for the World Cup. And if you happen to be among the millions following along at home, why not toast your favorite team with a dash of South American spirit?
Once fairly obscure, Brazilian cachaca and pisco, made in Chile and Peru, are on the rise in the United States, says Pamela Wiznitzer, bartender at the Dead Rabbit in New York City and president of the U.S. Bartenders' Guild. With the weather warming up and the World Cup beckoning, now's the time the spirits really shine, she says.
Also a fan is New York City-based mixologist Duane Fernandez Jr.
"I just want the rest of America to break out of the usual and try something different. They will be surprised by what they will taste," he says.
Ready to try something new? Here's a sampler of what's out there.
Pronounced ka-SHA-sa, this is Brazil's national spirit and by law can only come from that country. It is made from fresh sugar cane juice and most often is seen in the caipirinha (kai-pur-EEN-ya) cocktail, made from cachaca and muddled lime. But bartenders increasingly also are exploring alternatives, such as subbing cachaca in classic cocktails like the old fashioned.
The spirit had been labeled "Brazilian Rum" in the United States, but producers successfully lobbied to have regulators recognize it as a unique spirit, arguing that customers got confused.
"Cachaca has a much different taste than a typical molasses-based rum," says Steve Luttmann, president and founder of Leblon cachaca, the category leader in the United States. "Consumers would taste cachaca and say, 'That's not rum,' and they would be right."
There are about 20 brands of cachaca available in the U.S., including Avua Cachaca which not only comes from Brazil, but is part-owned by Justin Noel, who has played soccer professionally for clubs in France and Britain. Now owner and bartender at New York City's 1534 bar, Noel sees the World Cup as an opportunity to "celebrate two things that I love — the sport and Brazil's national spirit."