A few months ago Anthony Goh, a regular reader and fellow Londoner, dropped me an email letting me know that he would shortly be launching a brand new cachaça in the UK and wanted to know if I would be interested in giving it a try. Asking me if I wanted to try a new spirit?! Talk about asking a silly question.
A few months later, after Anthony had dealt with the paperwork nightmare importing spirits involves and wrangled with HMRC to get the bottles out of bond once they had arrived here, I finally got a chance to meet up with him. Anthony has been a big fan of cachaça ever since discovering Caipirinhas, and out of this grew what has now become a venture with his best friend called Abelha Cachaça.
Produced in Bahia, Northern Brasil, by small-hold farmers Abelha Cachaça is unique (to my knowledge anyway) in being certified organic by the relevant authorities in both Brazil and the UK. While I am generally quite dubious of spirits that make big claims about how organic they are or how environmentally friendly they and their employees cars are, the burning of sugar cane fields in Brazil appears to be causing real problems so at least it seems to be a valid reason beyond marketing in this case.
Abelha comes in two varieties – the normal silver which is rested for a short time before being bottled, and weighs in at 39% ABV, and a gold version which is aged for three years in small 250 litre garapeira wood barrels, leaving it at 38% ABV. The silver has a sweet vegetal nose, and in the mouth there is a slight fruitiness and an ethereal funkiness. The initial industrial harshness fades in to a dry finish that almost reminds me of plantains.
The gold has a slightly mellower nose, with slightly woody notes. The flavour is sweet, with a stronger fruitiness than the silver and a much rounder profile. I wouldn’t quite class it as a sipping spirit, but it is a very nice example of an aged cachaça that hasn’t been over-aged to the point of loosing the qualities that, to me at least, make it cachaça in the first place.
Anthony was keen to come up with some cocktails to showcase Abelha, and the following cocktails are two that I have been tinkering with lately…
- 2 shots / 60 ml / 2 oz Abelha Gold
- ⅓ shot / 10 ml / ⅓ oz lemon grass syrup
- ¼ shot / 7.5 ml / ¼ oz Falernum
- 2 dashes TBT Lemon bitters
- Stir all ingredients thoroughly with ice. Strain in to an ice-filled old-fashioned and garnish with a lemon zest twist.
This play on the classic Old Fashioned came off the back of a discussion Anthony and I had regarding the possibility of a cachaça-based update, and how a flavoured sugar syrup might play a part. After a bit of thought I decided lemon grass might work nicely with the gold Abelha so I whipped up a batch of lemon grass syrup (2½ cups sugar, 1 cup water and a bunch of dried lemon grass simmered for 10-15 minutes) to see what I could make.
The cachaça and lemon grass syrup play together nicely rounding out the spirit and creating an interesting lightly aromatic drink. The falernum adds a touch of brightness to the drink and the lemon bitters round the flavours out nicely. Depending on your syrup and falernum you will need to watch the sweetness, but if the balance is right this is quite an enjoyable sipper.
- 1 shots / 30 ml / 1 oz Abelha Silver
- ¾ shot / 22.5 ml / ¾ oz sloe gin
- ½ shot / 15 ml / ½ oz lemon juice
- ½ shot / 15 ml / ½ oz egg white
- 2 bar-spoons Campari
- 2 bar-spoons sugar syrup
- 2 dashes grapefruit bitters
- Shake all ingredients thoroughly with ice and strain in to a cocktail glass.
Inspired by the Sloe Gin Fizz, and in particular the one I enjoyed in Soho bar Quo Vadis that used Campari to great effect, the Amber Hive takes the idea that gin and rum can often be exchanged with good results, and tries to apply it to cachaça which in many ways is a type of rum. The result is a creamy mixture, with the Campari and grapefruit bitters adding an edge to the sweet mixture of sloe gin and cachaça.
It’s common for drinks using egg white to call for simply a whole egg white, but I wanted to be a bit more precise here as I wanted the smoothness the egg provides without turning the drink in to an overly frothy mixture. I think the overall result is a decent one, taking a lot of interesting flavours and letting them play together nicely.
Note: In the interests of full disclosure, both bottles of Abelha Cachaça were provided to me by Anthony.
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