When you talk cachaca (cachaça) - pronounced Ca-shah-sa - otherwise known as pinga, caninha, aguardente or "a brava" - meaning the nasty one, you are talking Paraty, the oldest and most famous producer in Brazil.
With over 400 years of experience in the elaboration of pinga artisanal, the first distillery opened in 1533 in the then known as São Vicente captainship, close to Paraty.
During the 1600s, and up to today, the city became synonym of top quality cachaça.
It gained so much recognition for its purity and craftmanship that in the early days was used as a currency exchange in business transactions, whether to buy slaves, gold, semi precious stones or even coffee.
By 1790, Paraty already had 100 distilleries, the number increased to 150 by the year 1863. Today only six pinga artisanal producers remain in the region: Maré Alta, Coqueiro, Corisco, Itatinga, Murycana e Vamos Nessa, but the passion for caninha remains the same, celebrated annually through the Pinga Festival (Site in Portuguese).
To learn about the process of elaboration in the traditional (artisanal) way, let's head over to fazenda Cabral, where cachaça Coqueiro is distilled, in the place known as Engenho D'Agua (Site in Portuguese).
Elaborated with fresh sugarcane, cachaça comes unaged (white) and gold (aged), however, I've tried one beautiful pinga artisanal with a bluish colour as well. Obviously, you want the good artisanal stuff to drink it on its own, as a straight shot. However, women specially seem to like it mixed with fresh fruit juices. Good option, just wonder about the hangover it might bring the morning after.It is the most popular alcoholic beverage in Brazil, basic ingredient for the worldwide known caipirinha, the brazilian cocktail par excellence. By the way, head over to Brazilian Drinks and learn how to prepare one.
My days in Paraty were spent walking the historic center, doing a couple of schooner rides to discover the Green Coast and doing some trekking as well. One of these trips took me to Engenho D'Ouro, and old distillery still in business, here some pictures of the place...
Since 2007, all cachaca produced in the region can exhibit geographic indication of origin on its label.
By now you may be both, eager to try some if you haven't done it and willing to visit the place and learn more about it. Whatever you do - apart from tasting, of course - spend some time around the historic center, a marvelous relic of colonial architecture. Check some Paraty Postcards to get the feeling of the place.
Oooops!...forgot to tell you how to get there and where to stay in Paraty.