Jinga and Leblon
Today we are going to discuss cachaça, and specifically Leblon. So to get us started, straight from the Leblon website (because you all know that I’m a lazy bastard), we have some basics about Leblon and cachaça:
So what is cachaça anyways? And is it a rum or not?
Cachaça is a Brazilian spirit distilled from sugar cane juice. It is the third most consumed spirit in the world behind only vodka and soju/shochu, the asian distillates made predominantly from rice. Historians date the initial creation of cachaça between 1532 and 1550 in Brazil, predating the date of creation of rum (1651 in Barbados) by more than one hundred years. Unlike rum, which is usually made from molasses, cachaça can only be made from fresh cane juice, and can only be made in Brazil. 99% of cachaça is consumed in Brazil – over 1.3 billion liters per year. Brazilian law requires that cachaça be distilled no higher than 54% alcohol by volume, and bottled between 38% and 48% alcohol by volume. That being said, most export cachaça is about 40% alcohol by volume.
So why then the rum question? According to U.S. law, any spirit derived from sugar cane must be labeled as rum and in cachaça’s case: Brazilian Rum. This nomenclature has been in dispute for some time, with discussion and consideration of separating cachaça into its own ‘class,’ like tequila, or an ‘appellation’ within a broader class, like cognac and champagne. With the increasing popularity of cachaça, more and more people are asking for the distinction, especially since the cultural and sensorial differences between rum and cachaça are so significant.
So what are those sensorial differences? Since cachaça is made from fresh cane juice, and not molasses (a derivative of sugar cane), it has a fruitier, fresher nose than rum. Its taste is subtly sweet and fresh, and since it comes directly from the crop, cachaça has distinctive vegetal notes reminiscent of tequila (in fact, many mixologists and sommeliers liken cachaça more to a tequila than a rum because of the unique vegetal notes in the nose).
Leblon cachaça is distilled at their state-of-the-art distillery, Maison Leblon, in the fertile Minas Gerais region. Their approach to cachaça is unique: Gilles Merlet, the master distiller, approaches the fermentation, distillation, and finishing of cachaça like a fine wine. Using techniques from his native land of France, Gilles manages every detail of the creation – from the hand-selection of the cane and his proprietary fermentation approach, to the Alambique batch-distillation and light-casking, triple-filtering, and master-blending. Gilles rests the final distillate in XO Cognac casks from France, giving Leblon an extra-special touch. As a result, Leblon cachaça has a delicate, fruity nose, combined with an ultra smooth finish.
Now that we have a handle on this fine spirit, let’s start mixing with it. Those few regular readers of SpiritsandCocktails.com probably have noticed my fixation with using bitters as a major ingredient within the cocktail recipes created as of late. That infatuation isn’t going to stop today, but my fascination with naming those bitered cocktails after magic phrases has stopped (mainly because all of the good, short incantations have run out).
My latest concoction has even more bitters than the previous recipes, with a full half ounce of the bitter solution bathing amongst the other ingredients. Like the other recipes I’ve supplied, these drinks may have bitter notes (and this one a bit more than the others) but it still shows as being less bitter than a Negroni, so don’t be afraid to bust off the protective dropper lids of your dasher bottles and pour more bitters than you have ever deigned to put in a single cocktail before!
So grab your bartending tools, grow a pair, and whip up a:
2 oz Leblon cachaca
¼ oz Angostura orange bitters
¼ oz Fee’s peach bitters
¼ oz Giffard’s Abricot du Roussillon (or use Rothman & Winter’s Orchard Apricot)
½ oz grapefruit juice
1 ½ oz Champagne
stir all but champagne over ice
strain into a chilled cocktail glass
top with Champagne
give a light stir with a sugar coated spoon
UPDATE: After finishing off the rest of the grapefruit this morning, I became aware of how sweet it was, so if you happen to use a grapefruit (or juice) that is a bit on the bitter side, please add a dash of simple syrup.
This is a wonderfully dry, fruity libation that would probably be best consumed in the French Riviera in June (or perhaps since we’re using cachaça, the Leblon district of Rio would be more fitting). Unfortunately, it’s not June, and I’m about as far away as the French Riviera (or Rio, for that matter) as one can get right now, so I’m going to have to close my eyes as I take a sip of the Jinga to be mentally transported. Ahhhhhhhh, there it is!
The tropical, floral aspects of the Leblon play wonderfully with the orange, peach and apricot flavours of the bitters and liqueur. The grapefruit juice helps mellow and lengthen the bitter edge of the considerable volume of Fee’s and Angostura, while the addition of sparkling champagne adds an elegance that just wasn’t present until introduced.
For the final step of the creation of this drink, dip your (now wet after stirring) bar spoon in some sugar and knock off any of the excess. If you do this before giving your cocktail a final light stir, you’ll get a pleasant effervescence that wouldn’t have occurred without this finishing touch.
Cocktail and pictures by: