It’s impossible to talk about the movement to celebrate cachaça in Brazil and not talk about Milton Lima. For more than twenty years, his passion, persistence, and love for the distilled spirit have led him to pursue his life as a cachaça activist.
It’s hard to ask what Milton is doing when it comes to promoting cachaça. It’s better to ask what he isn’t doing. The owner of a cachaçaria, founder of the Cupula da Cachaça—these titles don’t do him justice. His passion and activism haven’t slowed over the past decades; if anything, it’s ramped up.
Respected around the country and globally, Milton Lima is at the forefront of the movement to make cachaça respected and loved by Brazilians and non-Brazilians alike.
I got a chance to speak with Milton and ask him about his journey thus far as a cachaça activist and what he’s got planned for the future.
You can find out more about what he’s up to here:
1. Can you tell me a little bit about who you are and where you originally came from?
I am passionate about cachaça, having been born, fermented, and distilled in Pirassununga - a city that in the 1950s had more than 200 cachaça brands [today it’s best known as the home of the cachaça brand 51].
2. I noticed that you recently shared a photo on social media in 2003 when you made your first television appearance talking about cachaça. At that point, you were already an expert. How did you start your journey through cachaça, and what made you decide that this was your path?
When I was in college, tequila finally made its way to Brazil. Tequila was treated like a star. Margaritas were everywhere. I thought it was strange that while the public was celebrating tequila, cachaça was marginalized.
I started researching cachaça, which ultimately led to my doing my college thesis on the subject. This thesis turned into a website—the first website about cachaça exclusively. It described the history and production of our native distilled spirit and the amazing sensory experiences.
3. Among so many things you do about cachaça, you run a cachaçaria called Macaúva, which from what I understand, is also a pousada (inn). How and when did you decide to open this business?
The pousada has been around for 17 years. Before that, it was always a dream of mine. Around that time, I was an HR consultant in São Paulo. I had a crazy, busy life. Little by little, I realized my dream to leave the big city and undertake this business full time. Cachaçaria Macaúva celebrates 10 years this year. The two ideas just came together. It made sense to combine this beautiful place and cachaça.
4. In addition to cachaçaria, you have a space for live music in Macaúva. Can you talk about the importance of music in relation to cachaça?
We have the Tiê Stage (sponsored by Tiê Cachaça) for our musical performances. We value the original bands in the region with a focus on Rock and Brazilian Popular Music. I think that music and tourism harmonize very well with cachaça.
5. How did COVID impact Macaúva?
There was a significant impact. Both the bar and inn closed. However, I am optimistic by nature. Everyone is suffering—the planet is suffering, and despite the high price we are paying with the lives of loved ones when all this passes, we will have a better world. I have no doubts about this.
6. You are also the founder of the Cupula da Cachaça, one of the country's most important competitions. When and why did you decide to start?
This idea was born with the collective thought of several people. We were in a bar by the sea in Fortaleza, visiting Ypioca—Me, Dirley Fernandes [interviewed previously on Cachaça for Gringos], Manoel Agostinho and Messias Cavalcanti.
Messias launched the idea to hold a big event in São Paulo to discuss cachaça. It had a high price tag, and for financial reasons, the project did not go ahead. But I kept the concept in mind. Since I had an inn and a cachaçaria, I invited those friends and others without any pretense for a summit where we could talk and drink cachaça. Dirley ended up taking notes of that meeting, during which we created the idea, and those notes were the first magazine of the Cupula da Cachaça.
7. I believe that in 2022 it will be the 5th Summit. How has the competition changed over the years?
2022 will actually be the 9th summit and the 5th ranking. Like a good cachaça, it improves with age. The ranking is always changing, always evolving so that the institution cachaça is increasingly valued.
8. How do you expect the competition to be in 10 years?
I want it to be like a good cachaça! Better and more democratic.
9. You recently became the brand ambassador for a cachaça called Pindorama. Can you talk a little about the origins of cachaça and how did you associate with it?
Pindorama was a gift, I believe a lot in the energy of things, and certainly, this project was an alignment of the stars. Until then, I had never done a project for an exclusive brand. Almost always, my projects are a union of several brands, regions, or types of wood used to age cachaça. This diversity makes me feel better.
Pindorama was first introduced to me by a mutual friend who lives in London, who introduced me to the person in charge of the brand. I received a sample and fell in love with the label and bottle. But when I tried it—it was just love. I was impressed by the aroma and all the sensory characteristics of Pindorama. From there, we started to talk, and today I am proud to work for a spectacular cachaça made from organic cane and using country fermentation with farm corn. It is a true work of art. Pindorama still gives me the freedom to talk about other cachaças as well. It's a job that brings me a lot of joy and fulfillment, being able to build a brand from scratch in Brazil!
10. You also launched the 5th edition of your Carta da Cachaça [similar to a menu]. You can talk about the origins of this idea and what it means to you.
We are in the production phase, choosing the cachaças invited for this 5th edition. Ten years ago, when Macaúva was starting, I felt the need to have something different for cachaça - a menu, but not a list with brands, woods, and regions. I wanted something bigger and, along with my team, decided to create the first Cachaça Macaúva Menu.
After that, I created other interesting menus that worked well for several prominent restaurants and the Menu of the First Cachaça Festival in the United Kingdom.
I look for an evolution when I create each menu. This one, in particular, I believe, is my biggest project so far. It's a mix of a cachaça menu with art. Besides presenting the cachaças and their stories, I want to tell my story over these 20 years and my 10 years with Cachaçaria Macaúva. In this edition, we will have the cartoonist Paulo Caruso illustrating the book, and I also got several friends that I met in the universe of cachaça to make contributions.
11. What other projects are you working on that we should know about?
At the moment, what I love to do is my show A SIP OF CACHAÇA, which is on my YouTube channel. I have the opportunity to tell the story of each cachaça, do a tasting with sensory analysis, and link the product to e-commerce - I have some other projects that are currently underway as well.
12. You don't need to name brands, but what are your favorite styles of cachaça? T
So many people ask, and the funny thing that the style changes over time then comes back. But basically, I really like the silver cachaças with the aroma of cane fields. I like the so-called Brazilian woods, and I like cachaça that has moderate acidity. What I really like is the one in my glass at any given time!
13. As a defender of cachaça, what is the most important thing for gringos to know about Brazil's native distillate?
Gringos have to know that we have one of the most incredible spirits globally, with the greatest diversity of colors, aromas, flavors, stories. No other distillate has this diversity. It makes me believe that there is certainly a cachaça made for you - it is enough to have the “arduous” mission to find it.
14. Is there anything else you would like to say to foreigners about cachaça?
Drink less but drink cachaça!