Understanding Cocktails: Tips for Using Cachaça


Understanding Cocktails: Tips for Using Cachaça

For our second installment of our "Understanding Cocktails" series, we've decided to jump into the world of cachaça (pronounced kah-SHAH-sah). Though relatively unknown in the States, cachaça has become more available over the past few years. And anyone who has visited Brazil knows that in its home country, it is revered, to put it lightly.

But what is it? And what to do with it?

Cachaça is distilled from the fermentation of the juice of fresh pressed cane sugar. This makes it distinct from (most) rum, because to make rum, you distill from fermented molasses. This leads to significant flavor and texture differences.

Though cachaça has many forms, you will generally find it as a lively, fun white spirit with a touch of sweetness, juicy texture, and very intense floral, herb and tropical fruit tones. It is also one of the few spirits that offers coconut and tapioca notes even when not aged in wood (read: it goes great with coconut). Some producers will also barrel age their cachaça to mellow the bite and introduce some vanilla, caramel, and baking spice notes. Generally, the aging is for only a few months, maybe a year or two at most, giving the resulting spirit a light tan color similar to Reposado Tequila. Unlike much of the world, however, cachaça producers prefer to use native trees for their barrels, imparting unique and specific characteristics you won’t find elsewhere.

Cachaça itself tastes and smells very tropical, so it makes a great base for fun, bright and sweet tropical drinks. However, its texture, much like pisco, begs for some citrus for balance. The most famous use for cachaça is the Caipirinha, a simple, exceptionally refreshing cocktail comprised of sugar, lime, ice and cachaça. Much like the Mojito, Caipirinhas take well to the addition of another fruit. For instance, simply muddling a strawberry while muddling the lime and sugar makes a delicious cocktail in its own right.

Due to its fruity, floral character, getting too fancy with bitters or complex liqueurs can often render the cachaça a moot element of a cocktail. However, with proper care and restraint, cachaça can play well with vermouth, red bitter liqueur, elderflower liqueur, and simple bitters, such as orange, lavender, and cherry.



2 tsp sugar or 1 oz simple sugar

½ lime, sliced thinly for better muddling

1 lime wheel (garnish)

2 oz Cachaça

6-10 cubes of ice (enough to fill the glass)

Double Old Fashioned glass

Bar stirring spoon (optional)

Put the sugar into the glass, then add the limes and muddle until most of the juice has been extracted and the sugar has mostly dissolved. Add Cachaça, then ice, and stir for a few seconds, being sure to pull a bit of the sugar and lime from the bottom of the glass to the top in the process. Garnish with lime wheel.

Cachaça Coconut Mojito

2.5 oz Cachaça

1.5 oz Coconut water

1.5 oz Coconut cream

1 lime, sliced thinly for muddling

1 lime wheel

6-8 mint leaves (depending on size)

1 can soda water (you won't use the whole thing)

15 cubes ice

Bar Shaker

Pint glass

Add cachaça, lime, mint (save one leaf for garnish) and the coconut water to shaker and muddle very thoroughly. Add 5 ice cubes and shake for 15 seconds. Strain into pint glass. Dump leftovers from shaker, rinse with cold water, and return contents from pint glass to shaker. Add coconut cream and 6 ice cubes and shake for a minimum of 30 seconds, or until the ice begins to “slosh” in the shaker instead of “shink” (in other words, the pitch made by the shaking will decrease substantially, then remain constant when done). Strain the mixture back into the pint glass, then add remaining ice and fill the rest of the glass with soda water. Stir lightly. Garnish with lime wheel and mint.

Pro tip: Place the mint you saved as a garnish in your palm, and give it a good smack with your other hand. This will “activate” the mint, making it much more aromatic.

Pro tip 2: To avoid the two halves of the bar shaker getting stuck together, pour a tiny bit of soda water into it before each time you shake. Don’t add too much or it won’t stay shut, but just a little bit will counteract the suction effect caused by the cooling during shaking.


Mojitos traditionally come in Collins glasses. We chose to go with a pint glass because the resulting cocktail is so delicious we felt a Collins was too short. If you really wanted to get this recipe to fit in one, you'd need to cut out some of the ingredients. To do so without sacrificing the proof (ABV) of the drink, you can replace all of the coconut water and half of the coconut cream with 1 oz of coconut rum, such as Malibu, and only use 2 oz of cachaça. We think this recipe’s balance is impeccable as is, but tradition is a powerful thing, so feel free to try it this way, too. Also note that with this version, you can add all the ingredients to the shaker at the same time.


The sweetness of a Mojito is a matter of taste. All of the ingredients here, outside of the lime and mint, are quite sweet, including the cachaça. If, however, you prefer just a bit more sweetness, add simple syrup to taste while adding the soda water at the end. You can also include a ½ of simple before the second shake.


Understanding Cocktails: How to Use Pisco


Understanding Cocktails: How to Use Pisco

Though we call ourselves a Latino Wine Company, those of you that have visited the store know that we also love spirits, liqueurs, aperitifs, bitters, fortified wines and mixers, as well as the cocktails you can make with them.

Making your own cocktails at home is a blast, so we’ve decided to launch an on going series on our blog that will help you understand the art of crafting cocktails. We will aim to give you the knowledge you’ll need to improve your cocktail game if you already have one, or get started if you do not.

First, we will focus on the base spirits, the backbone of every cocktail. Then we’ll move on to the other components, such as Vermouth, bitters, and mixers, and finally talk about the tools and techniques that will make you a pro. Each post will also include a couple of cocktails to help illustrate the concepts discussed.

For our first installment, we’ve decided to introduce you to Pisco. We will also do a post covering all brandy (yes, pisco is technically a brandy, and brandy is a term for all spirits derived from grapes).

For this post, we will focus on how to use pisco. After all, as fascinating as the story of any spirit may be, how to use it is the most important thing. For more info on how pisco is made, have a look at this post focusing on the details.

Pisco as a base for a cocktail works very much like gin. In fact, you can get away with replacing gin with pisco in any gin-based recipe. Why? It has to do with aromatics and texture. Flavor actually derives from scent, not taste. The only work your mouth does with regard to the flavor of something is to tell you how sweet, bitter, sour, astringent, savory, salty and heavy it is. Everything else that gives a thing flavor comes from scent, both at your nose and the back of your palate. Both gin and pisco also have similar textures, with no oak influence (with standard gin and all Peruvian pisco) and heightened aromatic profiles. And just like with gin, each pisco is quite different than the next, so finding the one(s) you like is step one.

Now, this does not mean that replacing gin with pisco leads to the same cocktail. Instead, you switch out one set of aromas for another. Gin has botanical notes, such as juniper, orange and lemon peel, coriander, and angelica root. Pisco has notes of fresh fruit, often red fruits, and citrus notes that reflect more the entire fruit, not just the peel. To wrap your head around this, think how orange peel smells different than fresh squeezed orange juice.  

Also, while gin and pisco have similar textures, pisco tends to come across as rounder and fuller, with less of a bite. This means that the drink will feel different with pisco in it, and that something with a bit of a bite to it, like lemon or lime or some bitters, might be necessary to balance the drink out.

So, what does this all boil down to? In general, pisco is great for light, lively cocktails that highlight the flavors and aromas of the spirit itself. For the most part, you’ll want to stick with cocktails that have 3-6 ingredients. Some partners for pisco include citrus, vermouth (usually dry and white), Campari or similar red bitter liqueur, tonic and soda. Some bitters can work well, such as more simple ones like lavender and orange, but generally you don’t need anything super aromatic like Angostura.


Pisco & Tonic

Like gin, tonic and pisco are a match made in heaven. The only thing you’ll want to change up is to add a bit more citrus than you would for a standard G&T, since the pisco’s texture is fuller and therefore won’t cut through the tonic the same way gin does.


¼ lime

1 lime slice (garnish)

2 oz pisco

4 oz tonic water, or to taste

3 cubes of ice

Rocks glass

2 stirring straws

Either squeeze the ¼ lime into the rocks glass, or muddle it in the glass if you have a muddler (a great investment, as muddling unlocks a ton of flavors). If you do muddle, then you won’t need to garnish the drink at the end with the lime slice unless you want to. Add the gin and ice, and give it a good stir for about 20 seconds. Add the tonic and give the whole drink 2-3 light stirs to mix it, but be careful not to disrupt the tonic too much, or you’ll risk losing its carbonation. Garnish with the lime slice and place the stirring straws in the drink.


Pisco Negroni:

A South American take on an Italian Classic Negroni, traditionally made with equal parts of Gin, Campari and Sweet Vermouth. We love changing the gin for pisco as aromatic based spirit giving it a lively texture to this classic cocktail to be enjoyed before or after dinner. 

Negroni can be made on the rocks, or neat...both ways are delicious for our own take on this cocktail we suggest the following recipe:

1 oz of Chilean Waqar Pisco

1 oz of Campari

1 oz of Yzaguirre Sweet Vermouth from Spain

Add all three ingredients in a cocktail mixer with three/four cubes of ice, shake gently then pour on a rock glass over ice or neat...garnish with a orange or lemon peel and if you want to add a bit of citrus notes, with a lighter burn gently the peel and squeeze some of the oils into the cocktail before caressing it on the rim of the glass. This cocktail will help you open your appetite or digestion after a big meal. 




A look back at Summer 2017 at Grand Cata


A look back at Summer 2017 at Grand Cata


It’s hard to pinpoint what we love most about our jobs at Grand Cata. Interacting with all of you on a daily basis tops the list, with a close second being our sense of pride in our mission of representing Latin American culture and sharing it with you.

However, we take distinct pleasure in helping you find new favorite wines. And in seeing you try new things that only we can offer. This summer has been chalk full of this! So as we come up on Labor Day, we thought it only made sense to look back at some of our favorite things that made this summer special and unique!

Rosé and Pipeño

Rosé has been on the rise for a while. The time has passed when the only rosé around came in huge bottles with enough residual sugar to classify it as a dessert wine. Instead, the summer of 2017 showed just how completely you have embraced the nuances and subtleties of rosé, in all it’s forms.

Chilean Pipeño made it to our shelves to stay! Mostly made with the first ever planted grape in Chile from the Canary Island, the pais grape...a fresh drinkable summer red served chilled while doing outdoor activities. Cacique Maravilla Pipeño and Viña Matia "Aupa" Pipeño were and still a big hit with many of our patrons! 

Summer Malbec

In May, we decided to show a different side of Malbec: the lighter, fresher, more herbal, wild-berry laden version. “Malbec,” much like “Cab,” has a specific connotation in the US. It’s supposed to be big, intense, complex and thick. While we love Malbecs in this vein, we wanted to highlight the versatility of the grape. 

The feedback we received regarding May's wines - specifically the Esperando los Barbaros from Chile - warmed our hearts and gave us more inspiration in what we’re doing at Grand Cata.

Taste of South America - largest event we have hosted

We try as often as we can to use our space as a place to introduce you to people, not just the wines they make. Since all of our wines are produced at least 2,100 miles from DC, this presents a challenge, especially if we aim to get more than one winemaker in the store at once. To our great delight, we managed to corral 8 of them June 3rd: four from Chile, four from Argentina. The turnout blew our minds! Over 250 of you made your way through our door that day. Even more importantly, over the next few weeks we had the pleasure to discuss the event with many of you one-on-one when you next visited the store. The excitement you displayed for the event, and the things that you learned about the wine and the people behind them, signaled to us the need to plan and host similar event going forward.

With Labor Day approaching, we are grateful for a wonderful summer (so far!). Thank you to all of you that made is great! But keep in mind, while students might be heading back to school, we still have at least 3 more weeks of incredible, summer weather! Make sure to take full advantage!


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