When I think of Brazil, I think of tropical rain forests, carnivals, lazy sunshine days, slow and sultry music and colourful cocktails. Thanks to our friends at Covert Distributions, we can now all enjoy the spirit of Brazil this summer with the addition of Cachaça Da Tulha to their impressive portfolio.
As I skimmed over my overfull email inbox, my eyes caught the words “Brazil,” “Cachaça,” “cocktails,” “dinner” and “Gorgeous George.” Um, yes please! I’ve been lusting after Gorgeous George since the first envy-inspiring picture made its way onto Instagram, and we all know how I feel about cocktails. It sounded like the perfect start to the working week. When I saw the invite comes from my friends, Ludgero and Doug, over at Covert Distributions, the deal was sealed. I was ready for a taste of Brazil. And also, to find out how exactly to pronounce “Cachaça.”
Popularly known in Brazil as “pinga”, “marvada”, “caninha”, and hundreds of other nicknames, Cachaça production in Brazil dates almost to its discovery in the 15th century and later colonization in the next centuries.
Legend says that when the slaves were working the internal engines of the sugar mill, grinding sugarcane to extract the juices that would later be boiled and reduced to the “white gold” of early colonialism, some of the juices would ferment in the hot humid weather. Later, drops of the vaporization of such fermentation would gather in the ceilings, dropping on the worker’s whipped backs. This is where the names “Pinga” (Drop) and “Aguardente” (burning water) supposedly originated (press release).
But wait, what is Cachaça?
First of all, it’s pronounced kah-SHAH-sa. With more than 5000 brands of Cachaça available in Brazil, only a handful of them are being exported to the rest of the world.
If you try it for the first time, it will taste slightly familiar, like a rum. In fact, it’s family of a white rum, but the difference lies in the handling of the sugar cane. Rum is traditionally made from processed sugar cane, or molasses, where Cachaça is made of the pure, raw, unprocessed sugar cane juice, giving it a greener, grassier taste than caramel-y rum. Now we can continue.
I arrived at Gorgeous George with the anticipation of a child on Christmas Eve. I was whisked up to the sixth floor to Gigi Rooftop where the lift doors ceremoniously opened onto a magical wonderland of the senses. Soon, our table filled with with a small group of friends, family and media guests alike, all hungry for a taste of Brazil. A great collaboration was borne between Luiz Quintella from Da Tulha Cachaça from Brazil, the Covert Distributions team and Gigi Rooftop under the hand of Executive Chef Guy Bennett. That night, we were there to witness this union, and to taste the tropical fruits of their labour.
Luiz, on a brief family holiday to South Africa from Brazil, concocted some sort of magic with the Covert team. Before you could say “bom appetit!” Luiz tied his apron strings and was comfortably cooking for us in Gigi’s kitchen. Gigi, in turn, came up with Cachaça cocktail pairings for his menu, as well as the mains and decadent dessert. It was a match made across continents, and I felt honoured to be on the receiving end of this holy matrimony.
Gigi Rooftop was the perfect venue to explore the taste and spirit of Brazil. Filled with luscious creeping plants that turned the patio into an instant jungle, the ambience was just right. It was easy to imagine balmy nights sitting in street café’s in Brasilia, sipping icy caipirinhas.
The spirit of Brazil
We got into the swing of things with a round of arrival caipirinhas, accompanied by appetite teasers of tropical curry and tapioca crisps, made with tapioca flour sourced by Luiz from the Amazon rain forest. If the canapés were anything to go by, we were in for a treat!
For starters, Luiz prepared a Brazilian-style calamari vinaigrette salad, which paired beautifully with the zesty, citrussy caipirinhas. Thin, velvety smooth strands of flash fried calamari melted in our mouths, whilst the fresh acidity of the tomato and green pepper-based vinaigrette lifted out the smooth hum of the Cachaça cocktail.
As we spoke and laughed and listened to stories of the Da Tulha distillery, I was reminded of how experiences and shared moments bind us together. Even though I’ve never been to Brazil, or visited a Cachaça distillery, I could relate to the grounding morals and ethics that underpin this family run business. We’re talking here of a small family distillery that fills and labels each bottle by hand, making sure that human connection is forged long before the bottle leaves the distillery. I looked over to the end of the table where Luiz’ friends and family were enjoying his food and good South African wine, and I was reminded of the essence that defines the human connection. A good plate of food is always a fantastic catalyst.
For mains, Executive Chef Guy presented us with a beautiful dish of slow-braised Karoo lamb, spring greens, lamb jus and mint and pea fritters. Served alongside this gorgeous plate of food, was a sterling interpretation of Da Tulha Cachaça: the Fiesta, which was a glorious long drink made with grapefruit juice, lime and soda. I couldn’t get enough of the mains pairing. The lamb was braised to sheer perfection, coming undone under my fork. Topped with fresh, crunchy greens, this was one of the best dishes I’ve had in a while. The Fiesta? An absolute Brazilian carnival in a glass.
To wrap up our meal, Gigi’s Sous Chef delighted our awakened palates with a baked cheesecake, coconut and lemon grass espuma, pineapple and jasmine tea sorbet and warm spiced dumplings dessert. As I’m quite a texture oriented person, this dessert ticked all the boxes: hot and cold, sweet and spicy, crunchy and smooth. A beauty on the eye and even better on the palate.
And then, behold: the star of the Cachaça show: the Glam Canina. This finale is served with flair. Shaken with pineapple pesto, curry verjuice and Christmas spice apple maraschino, it is the breath-taking dress that Cachaça takes centre stage with. The Glam Canina will become a permanent feature of Gigi’s. Whilst they are still working on perfecting the most show-stopping cocktail in Cape Town, I can promise you it’ll be Instagram-worthy. For this event, though, it was served deliciously modest.
The warm mixed spices accentuated the deep flavours of the Cachaça, whilst the creamy pineapple smoothed over all the edges, making this cocktail a dream to drink, and to photograph. I’m pretty sure it will soon be the most photographed cocktail in Cape Town, so you better head over and see what all the fuss is about! I’ll definitely be back for more!
That evening I left with all the feel-goods, and not just because of the Cachaça cocktails. I was reminded of all the intrinsically great things in life, and how little it takes to achieve unadulterated happiness. A stunning plate of food that gives you a sneak-peek into a different culture and way of life. Stories from across the continent that we all can relate to through our humanness. The importance to slow down sometimes and appreciate the cocktail of life for all its different ingredients and elements.
But before I get way too philosophical for a food blog – thank you, Covert Distributions and Da Tulha Cachaça Distillery, for sharing your magic with us, and more so, with Cape Town. Thank you to Chef Guy and his Gigi team for a stunning meal and for taking care of us so well. Last, but not least, a very special thank you to Luiz for offering up his holiday time to show us the true spirit of Da Tulha Cachaça. Thank you for offering us a taste of Brazil this summer. Cheers to Cachaça and long live the Glam Canina!
The Little Hedonist has made every effort to ensure that the information in this post was correct at the time of publication. However, I do not assume any liability caused by errors, such as price, menu changes, opening times, and contact details.
Disclaimer: I was invited to this event in my personal capacity as The Little Hedonist. There was no expectation for platform coverage in the form of a blog, or social media posts. This is my honest and truthful opinion and review thereof. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of The Little Hedonist, given in good faith and in no way influenced by the company or its affiliates. All images, unless otherwise stated/credited, are also my own.