Cachaça is labeled as "Brazilian rum" in the United States, but it's different than rum. Rum is distilled from molasses and cachaça is distilled from fresh pressed sugarcane juice. Cachaça, to me, has a much more intense aroma and flavor than rum--maybe a little more of a fruity flavor that I suppose is due to the sugarcane. It's sweet and smooth and feels warm going down your throat. Just one sip makes me want to samba!
It's amazing to me that a food or drink can evoke such powerful memories and a sense of place, but this spirit, for me, represents all things Brazilian. If you want to make a caipirinha, start with 1/2 of a lime, 1 or 2 teaspoons of sugar (the cachaça is pretty sweet, so start off with just 1 teapoon), 1 cup of ice and 2 ounces of cachaça. Muddle the lime and sugar in a cocktail shaker. Add the ice and the cachaça, shake, and pour.
For a classic Brazilian dinner to go with the caipirinha, try it with feijoada, a traditional black bean and sausage stew, or a Brazilian Fish Stew. Your taste buds will say "Obrigada", which is Portuguese for "thank you". I'd love to hear if anyone has any other favorite Brazilian recipes to share.