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Cachaca vs Rum: What’s The Difference?

by Scott Connor 07 Jan 2023

Whether you’re an avid connoisseur of artisan cocktails or a bon vivant who only occasionally dips into libations, there’s a solid chance you’ve seen cachaca slipped onto bar menus or bantered about between mixologists. From punchy hurricanes to palate-perfect daiquiris, cachaca is increasingly seen in tropical drinks where we expect rum to be.

This begs the questions: Are these spirits one and the same? What is gold rum? What are the different types of rum? What’s the difference between rum and whiskey? And, if not, what’s the difference between cachaca and rum?

Let’s dive into the cachaca vs rum debate—preferably with a drink in hand and some samba playing in the background. 

What Is Cachaca?

To the uninitiated, Cachaca seems like Brazilian rum. You may have heard some people utter, “Cachaca is pretty much just like rum.” To which any expert on spirits would scoff or drop their jaw in horror.

There are similarities, to be sure, but these are eclipsed by the vast differences between rum and cachaca. Cachaca—pronounced ka-shah-sa—is, like rum, a distilled alcoholic spirit. However…

  • Origins – Cachaca is produced in only one place: Brazil, South America. It’s the South American country’s proud national spirit.
  • Ingredients – Cachaca is made from Brazilian-grown, fermented sugarcane juice.1 The sugar cane juice gives the spirit a raw, fruity, delicate sweetness that pairs beautifully with citrus—particularly lime, which is the basis of Brazil’s ever-popular cocktail, the Caipirinha. 
  • Distillation process – Unlike other spirits (including rum), cachaca is distilled only once, typically in column stills or, in the case of artisanal cachaça, in antiquated apparatuses like alembic copper stills.
  • Preservation – Cachaca is aged in various barrels and casks, including native woods, which gives it a distinct taste (and further distinguishes itself from rum).
  • Alcohol by volume (ABV) – Generally, Brazilian Cachaça is bottled and sold with an alcohol by volume of 38 to 54%. By comparison, cask-strength whiskey has an ABV of up to 65%.2

  • So, What Is Rum?

    While Brazilian Cachaça is the exotic foreign exchange student at the college soirée, rum is the trusty friend next door—although with more sophisticated nuances than we might realize if we’re new to university, er, the realm of fine spirits. 

    Here’s how the essential mai tai ingredient differs from cachaca:

  • Origins – Rum has its roots in the West Indies and may date as far back as the mid-17th century.3 Now, however, it’s manufactured and sold throughout the world.

  • Ingredients – Rum is distilled from fermented sugar cane products, such as molasses. This, combined with how it’s made, gives rum caramel undertones and, with some brands and bottles, a spicy taste. 

  • Distillation process – The quality of a rum depends on its distillation process. Full-bodied rums produced in Barbados, for example, are distilled twice. Lighter rums, meanwhile, are distilled in continuous-operation stills. Premium rums, like Cockspur and Appleton, are usually darker in color and meant to be enjoyed straight.

  • Preservation – Old fashioned rum is aged in a number of containers as well, but sometimes in used sherry and bourbon barrels, which changes its flavor profile.

  • Alcohol by volume (ABV) – Rum is somewhat in the same range as cachaca: It’s normally bottled and marketed with an ABV between 43 and 49%.
  • Cachaca vs Rum: What Are the Similarities?

    If you happen to find yourself in a cachaça vs rum debate, rest assured that one isn’t better than the other. As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the taste is on the tongue of the cocktail sipper. Flavor preferences—in a highball and beyond—are entirely subjective.

    Besides, there are also similarities between the two, which is why they are often thought of as interchangeable. (Also, cachaca was marketed as a “category of rum” when it first hit the United States.)4 Here’s why:

    1. Both spirits were used in the slave trade, albeit in separate ways. In Brazil, slaves who worked in the sugarcane fields were forced to produce cachaca and, according to some sources, were given rations of the drink to make labor more tolerable. Rum, on the other hand, was used for trading for slaves, even though slaves were a huge part of the rum-making process.
    2. Similar to tequila, cachaca, and rum are distinguished by their colors—which is the result of how they were preserved post-distillation. Rum is usually characterized as light rum or dark rum, while cachaca may be branca (white) or amarela (gold).
    3. Cachaca and rum are superb solo—either ice-cold, neat, straight, or on the rocks—and in an array of cocktails. For example, if you want to try Caipirinha, you'll need 2 ounces of Cachaca, 2 wedges of lime, and 2 teaspoons of sugar, and garnish the shot glass with an extra lime wedge.

    Power Up Your Party Supply With Barbank 

    Now that you have the difference between rum and cachaca down pat, it’s time to start stocking your shelves for your future fetes or those evenings at home when you want to kick back with a glass in hand.

    Whether you’re looking to buy Japanese whiskey, searching for ready-to-drink libations to bust out at your next backyard barbeque, or on the prowl for premium rum, Barbank has you covered. With excellent deals on first-rate bottles and complimentary shopping on select orders, you can take care of all of your libation needs from the comfort of your couch. 

    Because when the craving for a delicious cocktail knocks at your door, online liquor delivery is an infallible option. Check us today so you can turn your focus back to savoring a sumptuous drink.


    Sources: 

    1. Advanced Mixology. What is cachaca? The history of Brazil’s national spirit. https://advancedmixology.com/blogs/art-of-mixology/what-is-cachaca
    2. Alcohol.org. Alcohol by volume (ABV): beer, wine, & liquor. https://alcohol.org/statistics-information/abv/
    3. Brittanica. Rum/liquor. https://www.britannica.com/topic/rum-liquor
    4. The Spruce Eats. What is cachaca? https://www.thespruceeats.com/what-is-cachaca-760699
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