World Cup's over, but it's never too late to get down with Brazil's national spirit, cachaça, (pronounced ka-sha-sa). Besides, Brazil could really use a drinking buddy right now.
Unless you smuggled the really good stuff back from your last Latin American adventure, good luck finding more than two brands in Ontario: petrol-esque Pitu and the superior Leblon. There are thousands of styles ranging in age and quality in cachaça's motherland, however, where it's downed enthusiastically enough to be the world's third-most-consumed spirit.
Distilled from fresh sugar cane juice rather than molasses, like most rums, cachaça is similar to rhum agricole. Aged versions common in Brazil are sadly rare here, and raw spirits like Pitu can be harsh as hell. Cachaça's many pet names include "eye wash," "water the birds don't drink," and "tiger breath."
Traditionally knocked back neat or on the rocks, the most diplomatic form it takes is in the caipirinha (spirit, sugar and lime all muddled up and topped with ice), where it can do no wrong. The Brazilian adage "Quanto pior a cachaça, melhor a caipirinha" -"The worse the cachaça, the better the caipirinha" - means no pour is too vile for the country's most famous cocktail.
Parkdale's newly opened Brazilian snackery, Mata Petisco Bar (1690 Queen West, 416-627-6460, matabar.ca), has a list of fresh, fruity caipirinhas to choose from (passion fruit, guava, kiwi, mango and classic), all garnished with a stick of succulent sugar cane.
But the cachaça cocktails don't stop at caipirinhas. Bar manager Leah McMurtry (pictured left) drafted an authentically focused drink list (her first) to complement the Brazilian flavours coming from the kitchen. The Espumante Coconut Caipirinha ($12) quells the fire of cachaça and muddled Malagueta peppers with coconut water, fresh lime and egg white, and the house Caesar ($12) combines Brazil's spirit of choice with muddled Bode Vermelha peppers, lime and Walter Caesar mix, finishing it off with a cumin-spiced rim and crackling. If you're looking to imbibe around the continent without leaving your bar stool, pisco sours (pisco, lime, sugar, egg white, lemongrass, $12) are also a house specialty.