SaloonBox Behind The Scenes: Avua Cachaça
Our January kit featured a really special spirit from Brazil - Avua Cachaça. The spirit has a legendary history that can take books to unpack. The partnership was months in the making and we are so excited to have shared it with our subscribers. We had a fun interview with one of the founders, Pete Nevenglosky. The category got a major spotlight during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil. Read below to find about the time Pete met the legendary Sasha Petraske, founder of the renowned New York City cocktail bar Milk & Honey.
Tell us your history with the cachaca and the brand. How did you come to work with this distillery in Brazil?
The collaboration began with Nate Whitehouse and Pete Nevenglosky being introduced to the thrill of discovery of Brazil and cachaca, as well as its drinks and gastronomy.
The team went on a mission to find the best cachaça in the world and bring back to the US - trying over 400 different types across the country - and bringing back 50 to blind taste amongst trade friends and experts.
In one of the first meetings, a prominent bartender was very surprised by the quality of the product and told the team that they had to find a way of bringing this high-quality cachaça into the U.S.. Over the next three years, the Avuá team designed a brand to evoke what they found beautiful about the thrilling culture and variety of cachaça, Brazil, its music and dance as a way of being rooted in the Rio of the 1950’s – the start of bossa nova, Copacabana beach exploding and Pan Am flights to Brazil.
The brand (and bottle), were inspired by the architecture of Oscar Niemeyer.
How have the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil impact your brand and the consumption of cachaca in general outside Brazil?
The Olympics was an amazing moment for the world to dive into Brazilian culture and within that it's unique food and drink - of which cachaça as the national spirit is paramount. For us most importantly it served to raise awareness of the category and the lovely and unique flavors it holds - from great press pieces in the Wall Street Journal to features on NBC live from Rio and the countless number of bars and liquor stores that got behind us and the category. The moment was no doubt a big one for the category and Avuá but is also another piece of a longer mission of education and inspiration that takes years to bring to the consumer level.
What do you wish Americans knew about cachaca?
Cachaça has 500 years of history and a truly unique flavor profile and depth within its range. We see the category as where mezcal was years ago in terms of perception and awareness.
Here are the keys we like to lead with for Cachaça 101:
Origin: Brazil’s national spirit
Ingredient: made from raw sugar cane juice
Taste: freshness of rum, with the boldness of tequila
What are some misconceptions about cachaca that you'd like to correct?
Good question. Cachaça can be broken into industrial and artisanal production - and the resulting product from these two processes varies very widely. The first cachaça that made it to the US was of the industrial variety and is made by burning cane fields to clear them, pressing the cane in large batches and running it through a large continuous still. Artisanal cachaça is made by hand-cutting cane and pressing with 24 hours then running it through an alembic pot still which yields more character and a cleaner distillate. If you have only had the former you may have some negative connotations about the category - our goal is to get artisanal cachaça into everyone's glass!
What has been the most exciting thing to happen for your brand?
There have been a number of things I could reference here - but an early mentor of ours made perhaps the biggest impact. We had the good fortune to meet Sasha Petraske [founder of the renowned New York City cocktail bar Milk & Honey] at a coffee shop in New York and I struck up a conversation with him for about 20 minutes about the mock up bottle we had on the table not knowing at all who he was. It turned out he loved the product and our mission - so much that he offered for us to introduce the product at his new Milk & Honey space on 23rd street when it was a construction zone. By embracing our product we were able to introduce it to a wide variety of notable bartenders and trade and jump start our mission to take cachaça beyond the caipirinha. We owe him a lot as many do.
Favorite cachaca cocktail?
While I have tons of favorites that depend on what I am in the mood for at the time this one will always hold a special place: http://www.papermag.com/the-pan-am-at-milk-honey-1426754524.html
Any new products or developments in store for 2017?
Yes indeed! We have a Still Strength unaged cachaça coming out in April which is 90 proof - the level that it naturally comes off the still - focused on tiki and stirred drink applications. We will also have another limited release native wood aged product coming in September of the year.
Can you tell us more about the meaning of your brand Avua Cachaca?
Avua means "to fly" in colloquial Brazilian Portuguese that is a hybrid of the native tongue and Portuguese.
There is an expression that is used in the country that goes something like - you drink cachaça, you fly. So we really liked this link to the countryside and really the home of the best artisanal cachaças. The bird itself on the bottle is the sabiaá or the national bird of brazil and the brand itself evokes 1950's rio - really when the world discovered Brazil.