I remember seeing the first wave of cachaça hit Los Angeles around 2005. That was just after my first trip to Brazil and the beginning of my love affair with its national spirit. Now I’m a full-fledged cachaçeiro; I’ve collected more than a hundred bottles, which isn’t easy since the majority of my stash can only be purchased in Brazil.
The artisanal brands from Brazil that began to show up stateside: Germana, Armazem Vieira, and Weber Haus (carried exclusively by Fogo de Chão) have all but disappeared. I even grabbed the last four bottles of Germana carried by Wine and Liquor Depot a few years ago. Making my frequent trips to Brazil the only way restock.
Bartenders don’t seem to know what to do with the spirit and consumers don’t understand the culture of drinking cachaça. But Cari Hah, who manages Big Bar and promotes Cachaça Leblon, is L.A.’s best hopeful to bring home the love for cachaça, which just might get a second wind when the Summer Games are held this year in Brasil.
Hah’s favorite brands available in the U.S. are Novo Fogo and Leblon; Leblon has achieved the difficult task of earning legitimacy as a foreign owned brand in Brazil with their award winning Leblon Reserva Especial. When it comes to making cocktails with cachaça, Big Bar looks beyond the caipirinha, which is normally relegated to poorly done variations at bars around town.
“Big Bar, has a cachaça drink on the menu right now that is NOT a caipirinha riff,” explains Hah. The drink is Asian pear infused Leblon cachaça, Acqua di Cedro, Cocchi Americano, and apple cider vinegar and is topped off with pear cider and a sprinkle of sea salt.
“I think that cachaça hasn’t caught on more because people don’t understand it very well”, added Hah, “Another reason is that we don’t really have a great many quality craft cachaça available in the states.”
I couldn’t agree more. So, let me direct your attention and livers to Big Bar in Los Feliz to taste the best cachaças available in L.A., with a manager and staff that care about this versatile spirit. Try a caipirinha done with respect to the tradition and Big Bar’s pera coreana (Korean pear); a drink that shows a level of understanding of this amazing beverage that you’d only find in Brazil. A couple of trips to see Hah, and perhaps you’ll qualify as a true cachaçeiro, just in time for the Olympics.
Big Bar, 1927 Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz (323-644-0100 or alcovecafe.com/bigbar)