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Prepare to be overloaded with all things Rio as the 2016 Olympic Games begin today. The good news is that you can drink like you’re in South America without the ancillary risks of actually being there. Cachaça is the host nation’s spirit, but there’s a bevy of other boozes from across the continent worth exploring in D.C. this August.
The spirit: Cachaça
What it is: Cachaça is a Brazilian spirit distilled from fermented sugarcane juice, making it a cousin of rum, and more specifically, rhum agricole, also distilled from sugarcane juice rather than molasses.
Where to try it: Bourbon Steak has no fewer than three cachaça cocktails. Start with a staple Caipirinha ($15) made with Avua cachaça, then branch out to try the “Sparkle of Sao Paolo” ($15), with Leblon cachaça, a strawberry red wine syrup, lime, and sparkling wine, served up with a basil leaf and gold-dusted rim.Bourbon Steak, 2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; (202) 944-2026; bourbonsteakdc.com
The spirit: Singani
What it is: Singani is a Bolivian brandy distilled from the Muscat of Alexandria grape, hailing from the mountainous regions of the country.
Where to try it: Columbia Room’s summer menu offers a choice of two singani cocktails as a part of its tasting room experience. The “Coctel de Tamayo” contains Rujero Singani, scotch, banana, passion fruit, orgeat syrup, lime juice, dry Curacao, and black lemon bitters while the “Banana Republican,” is made with with Rujero Singani, Plantation Guyana 2005 rum, Cocchi Torino, Banane du Bresil Liqueur, and Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters.Colombia Room, 124 Blagden Alley NW; (202) 316-9396; columbiaroomdc.com
The spirit: Pisco
What it is: Pisco is a grape brandy hailing most prominently from Peru, although it’s also made in Chile under different regulations.
Where to try it: China Chilcano is a preeminent destination for pisco. Try pours neat, or in macerados—pisco infused with fruits and herbs. When it comes to cocktails, start with a classic Pisco Sour ($12), made with Macchu Pisco, lime, egg white, and Amargo Chuncho bitters, then move to a more modern creation, the “#Peruvian88” ($13), with La Diablada Italia pisco, elderflower liqueur, lemon, and Cava.418 7th St. NW, (202) 783-0941; chinachilcano.com
The spirit: Aguardiente
What it is: Aguardiente is the spirit of choice in Colombia. Anise in flavor, aguardiente is distilled from sugarcane juice and has an ABV of 24 to 29 percent.
Where to try it: Head to The Royal for their Aguardiente Punch ($10). The current rendition is a clarified milk punch, loosely based on a recipe stretching back more than 300 years. It’s made with Antioqueño Aguardiente, orange and lemon juice, quince paste, honey, rye whiskey, orange liqueur, clarified milk, nutmeg, and cinnamon.501 Florida Ave. NW, (202) 332-7777; theroyaldc.com