by Samer Farha
Although chef José Andrés has yet to respond to my offer to judge a Gin and Tonic showdown (which still stands) it’s worth noting that tonight from 4-6, there’s a free cachaça tasting at Café Atlántico. It’s the first event in the restaurant’s Brazilian Carnaval, which culminates next Tuesday with a three-course, prix fixe dinner, samba performance, and dance party. If you’re looking for a different sort of Mardi Gras experience, you could do worse than Carnaval.
If you’re not familiar with it, cachaça, a spirit distilled from raw sugarcane, can be considered a cousin of Rhum Agricole, which itself is not to be confused with other types of rum distilled from molasses. Like rum, it can be light or dark depending on the process and aging. Unlike rum, cachaça has up to six grams per liter of added sugar. Confused? Afraid? Don’t be. If you like rum, you’ll probably like cachaça too. The classic cocktail featuring cachaça is a caipirinha. In its purest expression, it is a sipping cocktail consisting of little more than muddled lime and sugar, crushed ice, and cachaça, in an old fashioned glass. Some bartenders serve theirs in a Collins (tall) glass, topped with soda, which makes an excellent refresher in warm weather.
Tonight at Café Atlántico you can sample two different brands of cachaça: from Leblon, casked in Cognac barrels, and Novo Fogo, whose silver cachaça is rested in steel tanks so it is still white. Also part of its Carnaval celebration, the restaurant hosts a capoeira demonstration on Sunday and the aforementioned dinner on Tuesday. Reservations are recommended for the weekend and required for Tuesday night’s dinner.
I’ll be there Tuesday night to lean on Chef Andrés personally on the matter of his bar’s gin and tonic. Oh, and to try the food. I’ll report back on that subject next week.