Published 6/15 and Re-published 6/20
Proposed By: David
Reviewed By: Jonathan
One of my favorite moments in Saturday Night Live history is the “More Cowbell” bit featuring Will Ferrell and, most notably, Christopher Walken. Renowned record producer Bruce Dickinson (Walken) orchestrates Blue Öyster Cult’s recording of “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” At each new take of the song, Dickinson instructs the percussionist Gene Frenkle (Ferrell) to contribute more and more cowbell. Dickinson shouts, “I got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell.”
Don’t worry, I’m going somewhere with this… for me the spotlit spirit this week, cachaça, is a sort of cowbell. One of the basic spirits in South America, it’s nonetheless exotic for most cocktailians and, yes, like cowbells, a little goes a long way.
One difference: As much as I enjoy a good cowbell, I like cachaça much more. Cachaça hails from Brazil and was first distilled by Portuguese settlers in the 16th century. It starts with fermented sugarcane juice rather than the cooked sap. Rums start from molasses and other forms of processed sugar, but cachaça offers a much fresher, more natural, almost woody flavor. Where rum might remind you of pralines, cachaça evokes chewing on those sugarcane logs you can still find in the grocery produce section.
This post began when, visiting my sister, I checked out her liquor cabinet (a bad habit I’ve developed) and discovered three-quarters of a bottle of cachaça left over from a previous visit and previous cocktail. Loving cachaça as I do, I marveled at how she managed to hang onto it, and she said, “I have no idea what to do with it.”
Of course. Cachaça—and cowbell—isn’t for everyone, but, for me, once you have some, it begs to be used. My personal mission became finding another use for the spirit. So I searched the web and found, among the top five cachaça cocktails, the Amazonia, one devised by Naren Young at the Bobo Restaurant in New York in 2008. It doesn’t actually feature that much of the Brazilian spirit, but, along with sparkling wine, it adds a prominent note. A bonus is that it includes mint, which is busy taking over gardens everywhere.
Here’s the recipe (makes one cocktail):
- 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) cachaça
- 6 fresh mint leaves
- 8 to 10 ice cubes
- 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) apple juice
- 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) simple syrup
- 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) Champagne or any sparkling wine
- 1 apple slice
In cocktail shaker, stir together cachaça and mint. Using wooden muddler or spoon, pound and press just until mint is bruised. Add ice, apple juice, lime juice, and simple syrup, and shake vigorously for 25 seconds. Strain into Champagne glass. Top with Champagne. Place apple slice in drink and serve immediately.
Who knows what Jonathan thinks about cachaça (or cowbell), but I’m always up for finding alternative uses for some of the bottles proliferating in our liquor cabinet.
Here’s Jonathan’s Review:
I have some pretty standard fears and a few that may be less normal. Thirteen is my lucky number so no problem with triskaidekaphobia, but I cannot say the same about heights (acrophobia), which must be genetic since I share that trait with our mother. One of my somewhat more peculiar fears, actually less a fear than the fact that they creep me out, is coulrophobia or the fear of clowns. Have you heard the annoying way they all laugh? Now, thanks to David, I have a fear of commas. There is no official phobia for that since the Greek and Latin for comma is essentially comma.
David told me last week that he does need to do some occasional editing, especially when it comes to my violation of the Oxford comma rule. That he edits my contributions, for clarity and grammar not content, is no surprise and is welcome. He is a professional after all. I do take some pride in my use of our native language, though, and now I plan to write with nary a pause unless absolutely necessary.
By now this should make one wonder if I even tried the drink this week or if I tried too many. I did try it and loved it. We could probably create a list of our favorite drinks that are topped with sparkling wine, and it would be a matter of splitting hairs between the best of the best. There is something about that additive that elevates and enhances a drink. The only drawback, as I have mentioned before, is that once you open that bottle of bubbly you need to use it.
There are not too many variations of the Amazonia, but one that I did find suggested white cranberry juice instead to the apple juice. Looking for a more clear drink I chose that route although I could only find peach/white cranberry. It is such a small amount that there is probably not much difference other than there is an interesting sweetness. The garnishes were an apple slice, blueberry and raspberry. The last two were just because I have both those plants in my yard, and the total harvest is so small that I wanted to showcase them. Might have wiped out the total raspberry haul in one round of drinks depending on what the deer miss over the next week.
Jonathan’s take: Maybe I should invest in champagne splits and try topping all of my drinks with it.
Re-take (6/28/20): It’s this simple – Cachaça is one of my favorite spirits. Rum in general is great for cocktails but the vegetal extra of Cachaça is even better. The Amazonia showcases that. There is some disagreement in my household about whether the mint is necessary and I will leave that up to the drinker.
David’s Take: I gotta have more cachaça. I got a fever, and the only prescription is more cachaça… and (personal taste) maybe a little less sparkling wine.
Re-take (6/28/20): This drink is more complicated than I remember—all of the different flavors are hard to separate (which is a good thing). It would be worth experimenting with the quantities to discover how I like this drink best.
Next time (Proposed By: Jonathan):
I have been reading a cocktail book from Death & Co. (a renowned cocktail bar in New York) called Death & Co.: Modern Classic Cocktails. A lot of their rum cocktails use Rhum Agricole and one in particular cites, in no uncertain terms, a dislike for Cachaça. I’d like to test that hypothesis and make the Brazil 66 cocktail with both spirits. All for scientific purposes of course.