Surrounded by the natural beauty of Brazil, the residents of the historic town of Morretes have embraced a life philosophy they call a vida mais simples: “the simpler life.” Not far from Morretes, you’ll find a protected tropical rain forest on the Atlantic Coast of Brazil; hiking and waterfalls at Pico do Marumbi; river dolphins and red-tailed parrots; and surfing at Paranaguá Bay. A distillery in Morretes continues the centuries-old tradition of producing handcrafted, small batch cachaça, a Brazilian spirit distilled from pressed sugarcane juice. The artisanal cachaças of Morretes are now being introduced to the rest of the world, thanks to Novo Fogo Cachaça Orgânica, a superb new entry in the cachaça category.
Novo Fogo was founded by Dragos Axinte, a native of Romania who emigrated to the US as a teenager with his family and eventually founded ColdHeat, a multimillion dollar consumer product company. Axinte has five patents and several applications to his name, but he’s embarked on this newest endeavor with his wife, Emily LaCroix-Axinte. Though it’s the world’s third most popular spirit (after vodka and soju/shochu), cachaça is still unknown to many consumers in the US. But with the cachaça market growing by 50% each year in the US, and American imbibers seeking higher quality spirits and handcrafted cocktails, Axinte’s business instincts appear to have served him well once again.
Ever the entrepreneur, Axinte has been reaching out to cocktail bloggers and spirits enthusiasts via Twitter, and not long after responding to his tweet I received a package from Bellevue, Washington, where Novo Fogo is based. Inside was an exhaustively detailed press kit and review bottles of Novo Fogo’s current releases, Novo Fogo Silver (Prata) and Novo Fogo Gold (Ouro).
The Doctor is In
Novo Fogo’s Master Distiller is Professor Agenor Maccari Jr., PhD (aka “Dr. Cachaça”), who grew up on a cachaça farm and is now considered a renowned authority on the spirit. He has studied every aspect of cachaça production, from the genetic selection of sugarcane to the fermentation process and wood aging, particularly native Brazilian woods. In addition to his work with Novo Fogo and his research and academic duties, Prof. Maccari influences the cachaça industry as a whole, such as his ongoing efforts to create Brazil’s first cachaça appellation. He strives to increase Brazil’s awareness of organic products by assisting cachaça distillers with shifting their production to organic, handcrafted processes.
USDA Organic and Zero Waste
Novo Fogo’s cachaças are certified USDA Organic, indicating no chemicals were used at any point during production: the sugarcane is grown without chemicals or preservatives; instead of burning the field, the sugarcane is harvested by hand; and organic corn and rice are added as fermentation agents, not chemicals. In addition, Novo Fogo’s products are vegan, gluten-free, and kosher.
Novo Fogo’s Morretes distillery is designated as Zero Waste, which means every by-product is reused. The bagasse (the residue that remains after the sugar cane is crushed) is used as steamer fuel, while the high-quality “heart” of the cachaça is used for the final product and the “heads” and “tails” are used as cleaner, fertilizer, and farm vehicle fuel. The distillery is built on a slope, in order to use gravity to move the cachaça from room to room instead of motorized pumps.
Silver and Gold
Of course, all of the green design and sustainable practices would mean nothing if the cachaça isn’t good, and thankfully Novo Fogo delivers in a big way. Novo Fogo Silver Organic Cachaça is pot distilled in small batches and rested for one year in stainless steel tanks. The Silver’s clear, crisp smoothness evokes the nearby Atlantic, ideally suited for mixing in a caipirinha (see below) and a perfect match with fruit. Like the Silver, Novo Fogo Gold Organic Cachaça is a handcrafted, small batch spirit. For the Gold, the cachaça is aged two years in reclaimed American Oak bourbon cask barrels. This aging gives the Gold a distinctly sweet oak character, resulting in a sipping spirit that can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or in a variation of your favorite brown cocktail.
Novo Fogo Silver Organic Cachaça
- 80 proof (40% ABV)
- Retail price: $29.99
TASTING NOTES (Batch No. L9327)
- Color – Clear
- Nose – Lime and floral notes
- Palate – Citrus, light sweetness and fruit
- Finish – Short and crisp, fresh sugar cane notes
Novo Fogo Gold Organic Cachaça
- 80 proof (40% ABV)
- Retail price: $34.99
TASTING NOTES (Batch No. L9328)
- Color – Light honey
- Nose – Caramel, vanilla
- Palate – Warm honey, sugar cane and fruit with a hint of smoke
- Finish – Long and smooth, light oak and vanilla at the end
From cork to base, Novo Fogo’s bottle design embodies the company’s sustainable practices. The bottles are handcrafted from recycled glass, collected from the streets of the neighboring city of Curitiba. The eye-catching neck wrap is made from a potato bag jute material, which provides extra grip when pouring. Cocktail recipes are printed on an attached neck tag made from 100% recycled paper.
At the bottle’s base is a hand-signed label with a batch number, indicating the year and day of bottling, as well as the bottler’s initials.
Novo Fogo Silver: Strawberry Caipirinha
Brazil’s national cocktail is the Caipirinha, a refreshing drink made with cachaça, sugar and lime. From this basic combination, endless variations can be created, including the summertime perfection of strawberries and Novo Fogo Silver.
- 1.5 oz. Novo Fogo Silver Cachaça
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/4 cup fresh strawberries
- 1 small lime
- Cut the lime into wedges and muddle them with sugar in a rocks glass.
- Add the strawberries and muddle again.
- Fill the glass with ice. Add cachaça and pour everything into a shaker.
- Shake and pour everything (including the ice) back into the same glass.
Novo Fogo Gold: Rabo de Gallo and The Gisele
In the July/August issue of Imbibe, writer Paul Clarke does an excellent job covering the vanguard of the burgeoning LA cocktail scene, including Caña Rum Bar in downtown. An online extra features Caña bartender John Coltharp’s recipe for the Rabo de Gallo, a wonderfully balanced and flavorful cocktail that calls for two of my favorite ingredients, Cynar and Carpano Antica Formula. Novo Fogo’s aged cachaça adds depth and complexity to the mix.
RABO DE GALLO
- 2 oz. cachaça (Novo Fogo Gold Cachaça)
- 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica)
- 1/2 oz. Cynar
- Orange peel for garnish
- Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and fill with ice.
- Stir well for 20 seconds, strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupe.
- Twist orange peel over drink and use as a garnish.
In a follow-up email, Axinte sent several new recipes, including one from Michael Kostin (Naga Cocktail Lounge) called The Gisele, which had just been created the night before.
- 1.5 oz Novo Fogo Gold Cachaça
- 3/4 oz Clément Créole Shrubb
- 1/2 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
- 2 dashes The Bitter Truth Xocolatl Mole Bitters
- Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
- Top with Pilsner beer foam.