Makers of cachaça, the Brazilian liquor fermented and distilled directly from freshly pressed sugar cane, are hopeful they can turn the spirit, still unknown to most non-Latin drinkers, into the next tequila. True, coming from sugar cane, cachaça is closer to rum, but walk into any trendy bar in New York, Miami, or Los Angeles and you can see tequila is the hip drink to beat rather than that old-world libation.
Cachaça (pronounced "ka-sha-sa") is to Brazil what whisky is to Scotland—a national drink integral to the country's identity. The finished product—sometimes known as "aguardente" (burning water) or "engasga gato" (cat choker)—in the bottle varies from 76 proof to 96 proof. How is it different from rum? Rum is made from either molasses or sugar cane juice aged in oak barrels. There are two types of cachaça—aged and not aged. Most of the aged stuff stays in Brazil. In the U.S., the un-aged variety is what most bars carry. Few drink the un-aged straight or even on the rocks. Most prefer to mix it, as with rum.