If you’re in São Paulo on Oct. 30, come along to our Oktoberfest Party and meet the rest of the gringoes gang at the Pe na Jaca” bar in São Paulo’s bohemian neighborhood, Vila Madalena.

Where: pé na Jaca, Rua Harmonia, 117, Vila Madalena, São Paulo

When: Thursday, Oct. 30, from 7.30pm

Entrance: FREE. Includes one free drink if you arrive before 20h30

Please RSVP to gringoes@www.gringoes.com or join the Facebook event

By Alastair Kinghorn
October 6, 2014

Known more correctly as cachaca or aguardente de cana-de-acucar, this is Brazil`s national tipple, and many an ardent fan has been toppled by this potent brew.

Distilled from sugar cane juice, traditionally in a small pot still whereas it is known as artesanal”, and sometimes sweetened, or aged in barrels, or steeped in a variety of fruits, it is much more than the main ingredient in Brazil’s national cocktail; caipirinha.

To begin with I could not own up to the fact that I disliked the taste of pinga. It was just too much for my Brazilian drinking companions to take on board, as they obviously simply adored the stuff judging by the vast quantities that they were capable of consuming at all hours of the day. Not that all of them were alcoholics you know, but shall we say, aficionados.

Accustomed as I was to opening hours kept by public houses in Great Britain, I found it pass to say the least, that pinga is consumed by many a Brazilian workman at breakfast time on cold winter mornings. It remains my opinion to this day that alcohol should not be consumed until the sun has passed the yard arm. The afternoon should be reserved for drinking tea, and not until 5:30pm should a glass of sherry be offered.

It is said that Campari, the Italian bitter tasting vermouth, has to be tried three times before you develop an appreciation of it. I found that it took much longer than that to appreciate pinga, unless its strong fiery taste of raw sugar was heavily disguised with lime juice, refined sugar and diluted with plenty of ice.

It is in that fashion it is easy to develop a liking for pinga when it is contained within a caipirinha, and although I prefer my own mix, which uses Sagitaba cachaca, sugar syrup instead of granulated, and lime juice, instead of mashed whole fruit, there are many varieties that I have tasted that are just as delicious, including the use of caju (cashew) fruit instead of lime.

Undaunted by my earlier distaste, I continued to experiment with pinga, purely in the interest of scientific and literary research you understand. I moved on from 51 (the most popular brand), to São Fransisco, and Ypioca. Both of these produce cachaca aged in barrels and it was this “sipping” cachaca that I became fonder of, although I have to admit that it was rather more the effect that attracted me, rather than the taste, which was only slightly more palatable than the cheaper brands.

Curiosity and encouragement to experiment further, from friends and acquaintances, led me into what I would describe as a Pingeria or Cachaca emporium during a visit to Paraty. The place was literally wall to wall and floor to ceiling in the stuff! My enquiries brought further questions to be answered, “How much did I want to spend?… “Did I want a recent bottling or something more than ten years old?”.

I was astonished! Here were bottles of pinga that had price tags equivalent to those on rare bottlings of Scotch Single Malts! But would the taste be in the same league?

I wrestled with temptation to exceed the limit on my credit card and opted for a variety of miniatures, explaining my intent to the sales assistant and requesting his expertise in making a representative selection. After much haggling the price came down to R$100 for ten very small bottles. I could have stocked myself up with 51 for nearly a year!

Several days later in my kitchen at home I sat down with my son and daughter to a little experimentation.

Shot glasses were labelled, a list of subjects tallied, and we turned our backs as my son poured.

Our rules were simple;- each tasting was to be described and then given points out of ten. Once my daughter and I had sampled the first five, my son took his turn. Then we repeated the process with the final batch. Bottled water was on hand for rinsing of glasses and throats.

The subjects tasted, in order, were as follows:-

No.1 Minha Deusa, Prata, Betin MG, 40%
No.2 Claudionor, Prata, Januaria MG, 48%
No.3 Pedra Branca, Ouro, Paraty RJ, 42%
No.4 Matodentro, Ouro, Paraitinga SP, 42%
No.5 Engenho D`Ouro, Prata, Paraty RJ, 45%
No.6 Rochina, Prata, Mansa RJ, 46%
No.7 Seleta, Prata, Salinhas MG, 42%
No.8 Reserva Do Gerente, Prata, Guarapari ES, 42%
No.9 Vale Verde, Ouro, Betin MG, 40%
No.10 Boazinha, Ouro, Salinas MG, 42%

I heartily recommend spending an evening such as we had that night! It was hilarious to say the least, and although we cannot claim to be experts in the finer points of pinga, our conclusions were surprisingly similar, even if our descriptions were sometimes less than scientific!

The results were as follows:

1st – 28 points – Pedra Branca – “soft and creamy with tobacco notes”
2nd – 26 points – Vale Verde – “suave with tobacco and vanilla notes”
3rd – 22 points – Matodentro – “smooth with fruit and banana notes”
4th- 20 points – Seleta – “smooth with vanilla and olive notes”
5th – 19 points – Engenho D`Ouro – “smooth with salty notes”
6th – 18 points – Reserva Do Gerente – “dry with smoky notes”
7th – 17 points – Claudionor – “smooth with honey notes”
8th – 14 points – Boazinha – “smoky”
9th – 13 points – Minha Deusa – “smoky”
The wooden spoon with only 4 points – Rochina – “!”

I have been kind enough to omit some of the more critical remarks such as: “metallic, paraffin, cream soda, nail varnish, plasticy, harsh and raw dung”!

What, might you ask, is my opinion now of the national drink of Brazil?

Well, I certainly have a much better appreciation of the range of quality on offer, and some of it is very good indeed. However, although I would rather drink pinga on a cold rainy day than Coca Cola, in preference I would rather stick to Scotch, especially since I can safely say that I like its flavour, and I can pick up a litre of Bells for under R$40, compared to over R$200 for some of those in the list above!

We did however, sleep very well that night!

2014 Alastair Kinghorn

Alastair is an expat originally from Scotland now living in rural Southeastern Brazil close to the city of São Paulo. He has led a variety of lives since leaving school at the tender age of seventeen. In the merchant navy he spent six years travelling the world including a trip to Rio and Santos in 1971. He then tried his hand doing a series of jobs in London as;- Mini Cab driver, Fashion allocator, Warehouse manager, Meat factory worker, before deciding to become an architect. He then went north to the Scottish Highlands for the next six years. Worked there as an architect, and as skipper of a pollution control vessel on the Moray Firth. He opened a shop selling stationary and art supplies. Started an arts group with an annual exhibition, became a member of the Community Council and ran as candidate in local elections, before returning south to London in ’86; due to recession in the Highlands. Worked in commercial architects practices in London during the ‘Yuppie’ years, before yet another recession hit the construction industry. Entered Local Government as an Estate Surveyor for Westminster City Council, then as Technical Manager for Camden and finally Repair Centre Manager for Greenwich. Took early retirement in 2006 and emigrated here to Brazil. Settled in Peruibe SP for three years before moving to Pedro de Toledo in the foothills of the Jureia mountains. Married and divorced three times he spends his time between his sitio, working part-time in a local imobiliaria, writing, photography and listening to classical music. Alastair decided to create Brazil: Alco and Bebidas
Brazil: Copo de Vagabundos
Brazil: Modestia
A Fora de Prazo
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October 6, 2014

Meet Yolanda Rother who moved to Brazil 2 months ago. Read the following interview in which Yolanda tells us about some of her most memorable experiences and gives some useful advice to newcomers.

1. Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from, what do you do etc.? My name is Yolanda, and I am half German half Jamaican. I was born and raised in Berlin, where I am completing my masters programme at the Hertie School of Governance.

2. When did you arrive in Brazil and what brought you here? I arrived in São Paulo exactly two months ago to start my graduate exchange semester in International Business and Public Administration.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil? My first impressions were the flow of life reminds of Jamaica, São Paulo is massive, and I like the people.

4. What do you miss most about home? Surprisingly, shopping is way cheaper in Europe than it is here. But this has a good consequence, I spend less money ;-)

5. What has been your most frustrating experience in Brazil? Attempting to find the Policia Federal to register for my RNE/CPF. I made to the Policia Federal Rodoviaria, to the Civil Policia, and only on my third try the actual Policia Federal. But they, this way I got a chance to discover new parts of the city.

6. What has been your most memorable experience in Brazil (specific incident)? Enjoying Gilberto Gil at Parque Ibirapuera – so freaking awesome!

7. What do you most like about Brazil (in general)? I love the Brazilian mentality of sharing – share a beer, share a feijoada, share a kiss.

8. What is your favorite restaurant/place to hang out here? I love to hang out at the new Hospital Matarrazo exhibition – there’s always something new to discover there.

9. Do you have any funny stories/incidents to tell about your time in Brazil? Everyone thinks I’m Brazilian – until they realise I can hardly speak Portuguese.

10. What difference between your homeland and Brazil do you find most striking? German is all about punctuality and efficiency. Here it may take three people and up to 8 minutes to get a Pao de Queijo.

11. How is your Portuguese coming along? What words do you find most difficult to pronounce/remember or are there any words that you regularly confuse? Portuguese is not as easy as I thought. Currently I am speaking a mix of Spanish, French, Portuguese and sign language. But I know that it will improve soon!

12. What advice do you have for newcomers to Brazil? São Paulo is more expensive than you’d expect! But so worth it. You can follow Yolanda at Twitter: @yolandatweets.

Are you a foreigner who has lived in, or is living or travelling in Brazil? Are you a Brazilian who has a lot of contact with foreigners and/or lived outside of Brazil? Are you interested in telling your story? If you would like to volunteer for our interview series, or if you would like to recommend someone, please send a blank email to gringoes@www.gringoes.com with Interview” in the subject. We will send you the interview questions by return email.

To read previous interviews in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below: Dave Rooney – Australia
Bina Bina – USA
Mike Jewell – USA
Niki Wang – Singapore
Sheldon Feingold – USA
Vitor Salas – Portugal
Joseph Low – USA
João Ferreira – Portugal
Hunter Peak – USA
Priya Ferreira – UK
Ryan Griffin – USA
Rami Alhames – Syria
Maya Bell – New Zealand
Melanie Mitrano – USA
Rob McDonell – Australia
Jennifer Souza – USA
Scott Hudson – Australia
Bill Holloway – USA
Elaine Vieira – South Africa
Pieter Kommerij – Netherlands
Rich Sallade – USA
Robyn and Willem Van Der Merwe – South Africa
Michael Smyth – UK
Danielle Carner – USA
Chris Caballero – USA
Jaya Green – USA
Wiliam Stewart – USA
Andrew Dreffen – Australia
Meredith Noll – USA
Marcus Lockwood – New Zealand
Mike Smith – UK
Jonathan Russell – USA
Jan Hillen – Belgium
Jeff Eddington – USA
Arne Rasmussen – Denmark
Rod Saunders – USA
Don Fenstermaker – USA
Ken Van Zyl – South Africa
Angus Graham – UK
Anne Morddel – USA
Jessica Mullins – Switzerland
Evan Soroka – USA
Mary de Camargo – USA
Brendan Fryer – UK
Aaron Sundquist – USA
Jay Bauman – USA
Alan Williams – USA
Derek Booth – UK
Jim Shattuck – USA
Ruby Souza – Hawaii
Stephan Hughes – Trinidad and Tobago
Louis van der Wiele – Holland
Drew Glaser – USA
Barry Elliott – Canada
Joel Barsky – USA
David Drummond – Canada
Liam Porisse – France
Jim Kelley – USA
Max Ray – USA
Jeremy Clark – Canada
Don Fredrick – USA
Jase Ramsey – USA
Ben Pearce – UK
Nitai Panchmatia – India
Johnnie Kashat – USA
Jeni Bonorino – USA
Eric Jones – USA
Bill Martin – UK
Bernard Morris – USA
John Graves – USA
Deepak Sapra – India
Alison McGowan – UK
Brent Gregory – USA
R Dub – USA
Tara Bianca – USA
Jack Hurley – USA
James Woodward – Canada
Tony O’Sullivan – Ireland
Anna Belavina – Russia
Jim Kirby – USA
Linda Halverstadt – USA
Michelle Monteiro – USA
Chris Mensah – UK
David Sundin – USA
Stephanie Glennon – USA
Julien Porisse – France
Hans Keeling – USA
Jim Adams – USA
Richard Murison – USA
Will Periam – UK
Jan Sandbert – Sweden
Jim Jones – USA
Mike Stricklin – USA
Edward Gowing – Australia
Adrian Woods – USA
Kevin Raub – USA
Pierpaolo Ciarcianelli – Italy
Zachary Heilman – USA
David Johnson – Bermuda
Cipriana Leme – Argentina
Timothy Bell – USA
Patti Beckert – USA
Timothy Bell – USA
Paul James – USA
David McLoughlin – Ireland
Pat Moraes – USA
Richard Dougherty – USA
James Weeds – USA
Tom Sluberski – USA
Peter Kefalas – USA
Sylvie Campbell – UK
Kathleen Haynes – USA
Matt Bowlby – USA
Alan Longbottom – UK
Eric Karukin – USA
Eddie Soto – USA
Kieran Gartlan – Ireland
Bryan Thomas Scmidt – USA
Emile Myburgh – South Africa
Bob Chapman – USA
David Barnes – USA
John Milan – USA
Chris Coates – UK
Matthew Ward – UK
Allison Glick – USA
Drake Smith – USA
Jim Jones – USA
Philip Wigan – UK
Atlanta Foresyth – USA
Lee Gordon – USA
Carmen Naidoo – South Africa
Lee Safian – USA
Laurie Carneiro – USA
Dana De Lise – USA
Richard Gant – USA
Robin Hoffman – USA
Wayne Wright – UK
Walt Kirspel – USA
Priya Guyadeen – Guyana
Caitlin McQuilling – USA
Nicole Rombach – Holland
Steven Engler – Canada
Richard Conti – USA
Zak Burkons – USA
Ann White – USA
Monde Ngqumeya – South Africa
Johnny Sweeney – USA
David Harty – Canada
Bill McCrossen – USA
Peter Berner – Switzerland/Brazil
Ethan Munson – USA
Solveig Skadhauge – Denmark
Sean McGown – USA
Condrad Downes – UK
Jennifer Silva – Australian
Justin Mounts – USA
Elliott Zussman – USA
Jonathan Abernathy – USA
Steve Koenig – USA
Kyron Gibbs – USA
Stephanie Early – USA
Martin Raw – UK
Sean Coady – UK
Hugo Delgado – Mexico
Sean Terrillon – Canada
Jessie Simon – USA
Michael Meehan – USA
Thales Panagides – Cyprus
Tammy Montagna – USA
Samantha Tennant – England
Ron Finely – United States
Bob Duprez – United States
Peter Baines – England
Youssef Bouguerra – Tunisia
Van Wallach – USA
Lesley Cushing – England
Alexander von Brincken – Germany
Hank Avellar – USA
Ed Catchpole – England
Penny Freeland – England
Yasemin de Pinto – Turkey
Amy Williams Lima – USA
John Naumann – England
Marsye Schouella – Eygpt
Rita Shannon Koeser – USA
John Fitzpatrick – Scotland
Liam Gallagher – Northern Ireland
Lorelei Jones – England
Adam Glensy – England
Tommie C.B. DeAssis – Japan
Aaron Day – Canada
Graham Debney – New Zealand
Silke Tina Tischendorf – Germany
Tanya Keshavjee Macedo – Canada
Frank de Meijer – Holland
Carl Emberson – Australia
Kim Buarque – Wales
Damiano Pak – South Korea
Jonas Helding – Denmark
Pari Seeber – Iran
John Milton – England
Ken Marshall – Australia