Brazil's most famous alcoholic drink is cachaça, an extremely potent sugar-cane liquor known to knock the unwary out quite quickly. A great place to visit in Rio de Janeiro's neighbourhood of Leblon is Academia da Cachaça. There are also tours of distillers in Minas Gerais, much in the same way as you'd tour vineyards in the Sonoma Valley or in France, with the added bonus of their famous regional cuisine. And in a city near Fortaleza on the state of Ceará, there is an cachaça museum (Museu da Cachaça) where you can learn about the history of Ypioca. The most consumed and famous of the cachaças is Caninha 51. "Uma boa idéia" (a good idea) is the well known slogan of Caninha 51 which is made in Pirassununga (200km from São Paulo capital) and exported to over 50 countries around the world being the world's third best selling destilled drink. See how it is produced and try out the various varieties of cachaça along with a great deal of local and traditional food.
The strong flavor can be tempered (hidden?) in cocktails like the famous caipirinha, a combination of cachaça with sugar and lime juice. The city of Paraty gave its name to the drink: parati is a synonym for cachaça. Other words for it include: pinga, caninha, branquinha, malvada, aguardente ("burning water"). The same mixture using vodka is nicknamed a caipiroshka or caipivodka; with white rum, it's a caipiríssima.
Another interesting concoction is called capeta, made with cachaça, condensed milk, cinnamon, guarana powder (a mild stimulant), and other ingredients, varying by region.
Drinking cachaça straight, or stirring in only a dollop of honey, is a common habit on the Northeast region of the Country, and is not common in other regions.
If you enjoy fine brandy or grappa, try an aged cachaça. Deep and complex, this spirit is nothing like the ubiquitous clear liquor more commonly seen.
Beer in Brazil has a respectable history thanks to German immigrants. Draft lager beer is called chope or chopp ('SHOH-pee'). Most Brazilian beer brands tend to be less thick and bitter than actual German, Danish or English beer. The most popular domestic brands are Brahma, Antarctica and Skol. Traditional brands include Bohemia, Caracu and Itaipava. Brazilians like their beer almost ice-cold when served. To keep the beer cold, it is often served in an insulated container and is drunk from small glasses. Served like this, the waiter may keep topping up the glasses and replacing the beer until you ask him to stop.
While imported alcohol is very expensive, you may find a large assortment of vodka, wine and rum brands in any local supermarket. They come relatively cheap and don't taste that bad. If you really want imported vodka, gin, or Scotch, your best bet is to buy this at the duty-free shop at the airport coming in. (Brazil is one of the few countries where you can buy duty-free goods on your way in).
The production of wine is very strong in the north, but most of the wine connoisseurs live in the south. Rio Grande do Sul also has a great deal of wine production. Brazilian wines are usually fresher, fruitier and less alcoholic than, for instance, French wines. Popular brands like Sangue de Boi, Canção and Santa Felicidade and others with prices below R$ 6.00 are usually seen as rubbish.
If you happen to be in Minas Gerais, look for licor de jabuticaba (jabuticaba liquor) or vinho de jabuticaba (jabuticaba wine), an exquisite purple-black beverage with a sweet taste. Jabuticaba is the name of a small grape-like black fruit native to Brazil.
Back to: Eating & Drinking in Brazil