Are people supposed to think: “Ah, it’s International Gin Day – think I’ll have a gin now. Better still, I’m going to go and find a particularly obscure one from Nepal, to properly get behind International Gin Day.” Perhaps somebody thinks people wake up on World Whisky Day and say to themselves: “I hate whisky, but because it’s World Whisky Day I’ll give it another shot – literally.” At one point there were actually two World Whisky Days with two factions taking to social media to claim superiority.
I’ve always wondered, what’s the point? That was until last month, when I found my thoughts dominated by one drink, purely because it was having its day in the sun – or would have been, had England not been gripped by a sustained period of summer flash flooding.
So there I was on Sunday June 12, when my laptop pinged and a new message made me aware it was International Cachaça Day. If you happened to be living just about anywhere in the UK on that day, no drink could have been less suited to the inclement weather. International Hot Cocoa Day would have been far more appropriate.
But then it dawned on me that, although I am meant to write about spirits for an international publication, I hadn’t written anything on Brazil’s most famous tipple since someone hilariously tried to make the drink fashionable in Europe, some time around the turn of the millennium. And what with the Olympics looming on the horizon of what everyone hopes will be a scorching Northern Hemisphere summer month, perhaps cachaça, and its appended cocktail the Caipirinha, should get a bit of air time.
First thing to note about cachaça is that it is not Brazilian rum. It’s been branded as such in the past and the locals don’t like it. It is made from fresh sugar cane juice, not molasses, must come from Brazil, and its production is covered by federal decree.
And it’s popular. Very popular. Official figures estimate that about 1.2bn litres are produced each year by 5,000 producers. But it’s also estimated that the number of producers is actually closer to 40,000.
It has a long history, too. It was banned by the Portuguese authorities more than 250 years ago because people were enjoying it too much. And there are more than 2,000 Brazilian words to describe it. Best of all, though, is the fact that it’s delightfully easy to make into a cocktail. You simply add a quartered lime and three teaspoons of sugar to a healthy splash of cachaça, throw in some ice, and off you go.
The marketing potential for the spirit is immense, too – after all, beach volleyball in Rio isn’t quite the same as Russian ‘ultras’ using hammers on the heads of English football fans, who have in turn decided to rearrange the bar furniture by hurling it down the street. And there’s definitely altogether something more wholesome about sipping an exotic spirit then swigging lager from a bottle.
So there you have it. International Cachaça Day – a job well done, marketing folk.