Drinking alcohol is often a period of celebration. It’s a time to be with friends. It’s a time to relax. Over the months, years, really, since I first started getting into cachaça I’ve taken a different approach to consuming distilled spirits. First, I don’t drink bad spirits anymore. I’m willing to give a product a couple of sips. And yes, I know that the term bad could mean many things to many people. But to me, a bad product is a poorly made product. And it’s very easy to determine what kind of cachaça is poorly made.
I don’t normally consume cachaça like this, but there’s nothing wrong with it!
Outside of celebrating with friends, I do try to take time to get to know a cachaça. To me that means paying attention to my senses. With alcohol, it’s easy to ignore the senses and wait for the end feeling, which all of us who have consumed alcohol get. But that feeling is really only a small part of the experience, and too much consumption makes one forget the senses.
We’re not really used to paying attention to what’s around us. There are so many distractions. But when I consume cachaça, it’s a chance to separate, a chance to pay close attention to what I’m drinking. One of the things that you’re supposed to try to do when you use your senses is to categorize what you’re experiencing. You’re supposed to write it down. But I’m not sure that besides those who are seriously into spirits, it’s necessary to use words to write about what your senses are telling you. Connecting words to your sensorial experiences requires training, it requires time. It’s not something most people can jump into without that awareness. Obviously, there are times I do try to connect words to my experiences, but this doesn’t usually occur during my first experience with a particular type of cachaça.
It’s always nice to have a special glass to consume your favorite distilled spirits.
When I consume cachaça I try to make the experience special. Even if I’m alone, I try to consume it in a glass that’s special. I try not to consume it in a regular shot glass, although I don’t think there’s anything really wrong with that. A nice glass makes a difference for the experience because each cachaça deserves some reverence. For my first experience with a cachaça, I won’t chill the product, put in ice, or water. I want to know what that cachaça tastes like on its own. After that, I may decide that I prefer it a different way. I may want to chill it. Or, I may want to add an ice cube or two. I may even want to add some water, depending on how the alcohol content hits me.
Before I even bother paying attention to what is written on the label, although, of course, I likely have looked at it, beforehand, I want to have my sensory experience. I don’t want to put my expectations of what the product is ahead of the experience. No one is grading me, of course, no one is asking me to guess how much I know about the product without having read it. But neither am I interested in polluting myself with too much of what the bottle says. For me, the experience is going to be new.
Before I take my first sip, or really take a close look, or anything else, I like to drink some water. Usually a full cup is good. It cleans my palate and hydrates me.
Like most traditionalists, I like to look at my cachaça and see how it sits in the glass. With cachaça, it’s possible to see a wide range: from transparent to dark brown. I’ve seen soft orange, as well as a variety of shades of yellow.
The nose of course is also important. I do think it’s worth sticking your nose in the glass if you’ve got an appropriately-sized vessel. If you don’t have such a glass, well, it’s a bit more difficult to get a sense of the concentrated smells, which are often exceptionally rich.
Lastly, of course, it’s time to taste. I’m one of those people who has never been able to take a shot. I’ve always had to sip distilled spirits slowly. So, for me, drinking cachaça slowly fits my normal way of consumption. If you’re used to doing shots, slowing down might be difficult. But holding good cachaça in your mouth, letting it roll over your tongue, well, it’s going to tell you more about the story of the cachaça if you’re willing to pay attention.
However long it takes to sample the cachaça, I always drink water afterwards. It helps hydrate and cleans the palate. Nothing better.
Get yourself prepared: get your good glass, your water, and a brand new cachaça. You won’t be disappointed!