In an amazing display of organization and efficiency, the gorgeous Bar Convent Berlin (Berlin Bar Convention) started this morning. Since I had the rare wisdom to leave early last night, I was able to be there for the first presentation of the day, Cachaça: The Soul of Brazil, presented by the brilliant Jared Brown and Anastasia Miller, with my good friend John Gakuru, global brand ambassador for Sagatiba Cachaça.
I’d picked up their book, The Soul of Brazil when I was at Tales of the Cocktail this summer, and have been savoring every deliciously historical fact this summer – so I was quite excited to be able to sit in a room and learn more about one of my favorite spirits this morning.
I won’t get into too much of the extensive information that was presented today, but rather share with you some quick facts about cachaça:
Cachaça is the third most-produced spirit in the world – in the world – which might surprise some of you. 1.3 billion liters are produced annually, but only 20 million of those are exported – a mere 1% each year. I’m sure you can figure out what happens to the remainder.
Cachaça is nearly 500 years old, the second-oldest spirit in the new world. Jared and Anastasia gave us a quick timeline:
1531 – Tequila
1532 – Cachaça
1537 – Pisco
1627 – Rum
1640 – Rhum Agricole
Obviously, rum is made from molasses, while cachaça and rhum agricole are made from the juice of the sugar cane. But what are some of the other differences between agricole and cachaça? Besides the country of origin and the yeast strains involved, I was happy to hear of one other difference, that rhum agricole is made from sugar cane juice which is cooked (practically Pasteurized) before fermentation, while cachça is made from the very freshest juice of the cane plant, usually distilled within three days of harvest. This does result in a much more raw, natural flavor than rhum agricole.
After the presentation, I had the pleasure of hanging out with Mr. Gakuru and sampling some of the Sagatiba Preciosa, a gorgeous 23 year-old spirit that was the result of a very fortuitous accidental find on the grounds of the distillery. If any can distillate is the heir apparent to the cognac throne, this is certainly it. But grab it while you can, because once this one’s gone we most likely won’t be seeing an overaged cachaça for a long, long time.
I then wandered around the floor sampling spirits without Jay Hepburn, who was lost to the pleasures of Berlin for the morning. There is a huge gap between the American and European markets that I’ve been made very aware of while I’ve been here. Products that we covet back in the States are easily available here in Western Europe, while simple brands that I’d expect to find in any American control-state liquor store are prized for their rarity.
I got into a little Old Tom gin tasting at the GSA booth (my goodness, Old Tom is popular here right now) and was able to set Both’s Old Tom against the Secret Treasures Old Tom, which was a serious tongue-tying exercise in botanical and sugar palate definitions. The best I can describe them both at this late hour is that the Secret Treasures gin relied more heavily on the sweetness of the botanicals (much like the Jensen’s) while the Both’s used sugar to accentuate the more floral botanicals like lavender, rose and orange. Both were quite sippable, most certainly the Both’s, but the Secret Treasures came off as much more mixable in cocktails geared to today’s palate.
I finished off my day by watching the showmanship of Mr. Phillip Duff, Bols Global Brand Ambassador as he demonstrated some simple, yet thoughtful ways to increase sales from behind the bar using a few key strategies. Phil, I’m going to maintain a little grudge for knocking the States’ economy at my expense for the crowd, but applaud you for a great presentation. And I promise I will get you back, sir!
After a full morning of BCB, I headed back to the hotel to wrap up the final touches on my presentation for tomorrow afternoon. I hope to see you all there at 1:45 PM.