Artisanal Cachaça: The Versatility of Germana, by David T Smith

With the closing of London’s Olympic Season for 2012, my thoughts turned to the host of the 2016 Games and the 2014 Football World Cup, Brazil. With the sporting world’s eyes on this South American powerhouse, no doubt interests will also increase for their national spirit, Cachaça.

Anyone who is familiar with the drinks industry will know that Gin, Cognac, Rum and, now, Tequila have all grown in popularity, but, for many, Cachaça still remains an unfamiliar spirit.

An introduction to what Cachaça is can be found here on the Amathus site and so, to avoid repetition, let’s move on to looking at one brand in more detail.

Germana is made by Uniagro, but was first made by the Caetano family on their Vista Alegra ranch in 1912; the family still retain some ownership today. The name “Germana” means something that is genuine, pure, without mixing. It was also the name of a mystical nun who used Cachaça in medicinal preparations.

Germana is an artisanal Cachaça, made without the addition of sugar or chemicals and from spirit that is distilled in copper pot stills. They also use natural fermentation (using the cornmeal-fed yeast in the sugar cane) for their mash.

Today, we are looking at their Unaged Cachaça (40%ABV), but Germana also make Cachaça that has been aged for 2 years and 10 years, as well as a Single Barrel and a Heritage bottling. Some of the bottles are wrapped in dried banana leaves, which is hark back to a tradition started a century ago to protect the bottles as they were transported.

On its own
Nose: Very fruity: figs, raisins; lots of jammy fruit. Also, a touch of spice.
Taste: Quite thick in texture, this is also rather rum-like, with flavours of dark treacle and raisins. It reminds me somewhat of Pusser’s or Wood’s Rum. The finish was clean, woody and dry.

Cooling and clean, with some hints of smoked ham and anise. Simple, but effective and with character, this is very easy to enjoy, having some depth but not being overly-complex.

But there is more to the spirit than these two drinks and it is not just a beverage for the hot months; to illustrate this, I have used the unaged Germana in four seasonal cocktails.

Spring – Marmalade Sour
[30ml Cachaça. 10ml Lemon Juice, 1tsp Marmalade, 2 Dashes Orange Bitters – SHAKE]
This is a variation on Harry Craddock’s Marmalade Cocktail.
This drink is superb. I like gin, but I actually prefer this drink with Cachaça. The sweet, juicy elements of the Cachaça complements the rich, bitter-sweetness of the marmalade, with the lemon juice bringing balance to the drink. Delicious.

Summer – Woody Woodpecker
[40ml Cachaça, 15ml Orange Juice, 10ml Galliano – SHAKE]
OK, so this is not exactly the epitome of Brazilian tradition, but it’s a variation on a drink that many will be familiar with, the Harvey Wallbanger.
The drink is smooth and clean, but surprisingly sweet, making it more well-suited to a post- rather than pre-dinner drink. The sweet Galliano brings out the sweet, fruity flavours of the Germana. For a tarter drink, add 10ml of lemon juice.

Autumn – Rabo de Galo
[30ml Cachaça, 10ml Red Vermouth – SHAKE]
A traditional Brazilian cocktail, this is simple, but packed full of flavour. Warming, with the herbal notes, this is well-suited as an aperitif to stimulate the appetite. Very tasty.

Winter – Quentão
A traditional drink for the Brazilian Winter; a sort of mulled Cachaça. I used a mix of Cachaça, sugar, water, ginger, cloves and other spices, along with citrus peel, which I heated in a saucepan and then served in heatproof glasses.
The spicy ginger and christmas spices complement the juicy and jammy notes of the Cachaça, making for a cosy, warming and comforting drink – perfect for keeping the chills at bay.

After exploring Germana Cachaça a little more, I am impressed with its versatility, being easy to use in a whole range of cocktails, from summer coolers to winter warmers. My favourite was the Marmalade Sour, although I am quite fond of drinking Germana on its own.


David T Smith
Summer Fruit Cup
07759 419997


Zeer Oude Genever; Versatility and Style

In previous articles, I have written about both Van Wees’ Angostura Bitters and their excellent Three Corners Dry Gin. Today, I will look at another of their products, Zeer Oude Genever.

The forefather of London Dry Gin, Genever comes in a few varieties:

Oude (Old)
This name isn’t a reference to the age of the spirit, but rather to the “old” method in which it is made. It must contain a minimum of 15% Maltwine, no more than 20g of sugar per litre, and at be bottled at or above 35%ABV.

Jonge (Young)
This is made using a newer method of production that became popular in the 1950s in response to demand for a more mixable spirit with a lighter character. This can contain no more than 15% maltwine and no more than 10g sugar per litre. It must be bottled at at least 35%ABV.

Korenwijn (Cornwine)
The third variety, this must contain 51% maltwine and be bottled at at least 38%ABV. It can also contain no more than 20g of sugar per litre.

Van Wees Zeer Oude Genever
Van Wees Zeer Oude Genever

A.V. Wees Zeer Oude Genever is in the first of these styles. In addition to being made in the old style, it is also aged for at least one year in oak casks (hence Zeer (“Very”) Old).

The Taste

Nose: Dry spice, oak, juniper and toasted bread.
Taste: Initially smooth, with a building warmth. Oaky wood, vanilla and bread follow, with juniper on the finish. An interesting cross between whiskey and gin.
After tasting, it seemed to have the warmth and body of a brown spirit with the mixability of a white; as such, I decided to try it in a variety of classic cocktails.

Quite pleasant and smooth, this seemed to be a cross between a Manhattan and a Martinez; the missing link between these cocktails. The dry juniper notes are followed by sweet oak and vanilla. There are some herbal hints and a touch of citrus on the finish.

This Sazerac had a great combination of oaky vanilla and anise flavours. Warming and woody, it was also very comforting. Unusual, but excellent.

This was quite bitter, but also seemed more rounded than most Negronis, with a slight woodiness to it and a touch of anise. Overall, I think that a good balance was reached between the sweet and bitter flavours. Very good indeed.

Moscow Mule
A twist on the vodka classic. It had the same refreshing chill and citrus of the traditional drink, but with added vanilla notes and a woody, malty finish.

Yellow Gin
Yellow Gin was a variety of gin that had been matured in wood to add a light straw colour and an oaky flavour. Despite its popularity in the middle of the last century, it is now harder to come by. One suggested substitute is a mix of Dry Gin and Genever, so I decided to try it.

25ml Van Wees Three Corners Dry Gin
25ml Van Wees Zeer Oude Genever
(Stir without ice)

Comparing this to some Yellow Gins I have tried, I can see the similarities, although this was a lot richer in flavour, being more woody and malty. If you’re looking for something different when making gin-based drinks such as a Martini or Gin & Tonic, this mix could be really useful.

In Conclusion
Trying these drinks really illustrates the versatility of Genever as a cocktail ingredient and, with the increased interest in aged spirits, even extending to aged gins and vodkas, I think the interest in Genever will continue to grow. Hopefully some more great cocktails will be created, too!

by David T Smith

Summer Fruit Cup
07759 419997

Van Wees Angostura Bitters; a Carte Blanche worthy of 007

Van Wees Angostura Bitters
Van Wees Angostura Bitters

Angostura Bitters is a staple of the mixologist’s toolkit, but the variety with over-sized label is not the only brand available. Dutch spirit company Van Wees produces a range of genevers, liqueurs and bitters, including one flavoured with Angostura Bark.

The bitters have been produced since the days of VOC (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) AKA The Dutch East India Company.

Originally, the bitters were created to add flavour when mixed with genever and gin. As I had some other juniper-related Van Wees products, I decided to use these as a part of the tasting.

Pink Gin

i) using Three Corners Gin:
The bitters add a spicy complexity to the drink; the cinnamon and cinchona flavours work well, both together and with the simple juniper and citrus of the gin. With the recognisable flavour of spices, this drink is slightly Christmas-y.

ii) using Genever:
This is a very different drink to the Three Corners version; it is richer and maltier, and the bitters add another layer, increasing the depth of the flavour. The result is a drink with a bourbon-like character, perfect for sipping on the rocks.

Pink Gin & Tonic

i) using Three Corners Gin:
This drink has a wonderful, fresh flavour, with hints of ginger and cinnamon, and is more subtle when the Van Wees is used instead of other bitters.

ii) using Genever:
Rich and bitter, malty and herby, this is almost like an aged Negroni, although perhaps a little softer. Fantastic.

Old Fashioned

Truly a classic cocktail and rather tasty; the bitters are quite subtle, but definitely still present and bringing the different flavours together. On the finish there was a superb bitter lift courtesy of the angostura.

Carte Blanche

The Vesper of the 21st century, this drink comes from the latest James Bond Novel, Carte Blanche. It has a nose of citrus, cinnamon and cinchona. There’s slightly more flavour and bitter warmth than you get when using the usual bitters; it also less sweet. I have to say, this was a great improvement on the two other Carte Blanche’s that I have had. Delicious, and the bitters really make the drink. Truly excellent.

Amaretto Sour

A pleasant mix, with an almond biscuit-iness that contrasts well with the lemon juice. Once again, the bitters act as a catalyst, tying the flavour of the drink together and adding complexity.

With Lemonade

I added a few drops to a glass of cloudy lemonade (this drink’s ABV is less than 0.5%, which is equivalent to botanicals brewed soft drinks). The bitters add some complexity to the lemonade, as well as livening it up a bit; very tasty and very refreshing.

In Conclusion

There are lots of bitters on the market today, but I think that for a good all-round cocktail bitters, Van Wees Angostura Bitters would definitely be one to consider. As they were designed with juniper in mind, they work particularly well in gin cocktails.

But, for me, my favourite would have to be the Carte Blanche, as Bond fan, I was disappointed the first time I mixed the drink using other bitters. But when I used Van Wees Angostura Bitters the drink was transformed into something worthy of 007.

By David T. Smith

Summer Fruit Cup