My day job often requires that I travel a lot around the U.S. and sometimes internationally. This means I go to a number of restaurants. Some of these restaurants have bars. Some of these bars have cachaça.
Some don't know they have it. Some had it at one time and stopped carrying it.
A guy I know at Reuters once told me that newsrooms often follow a "three's a trend" rule. That is, if something happens three or more times, it's therefore okay (at least journalistically) to call it a "trend".
Just to be safe — and hedging for the fact that I'd never call myself a "journalist" — here are four stories that should alarm your favorite cachaça brands.
A while ago, in Chicago, the waitress told me when I sat down that the restaurant didn't have cachaça. She was surprised after the meal when I pointed out that they actually offered no fewer than two cachaças on the dessert menu. (They thoughtfully comped me on the cachaça as a reward for catching the oversight.)
In a Manhattan hotel bar, the bartender was equally surprised when, after telling me they absolutely did not carry cachaça, I calmly pointed to the bottle behind the bar to show her where it was. Then she remembered that the brand actually held a pretty big bash at the bar's opening. That was kind of like remembering that great Super Bowl ad but forgetting the name of the sponsor.
During another trip to Manhattan, this time near the Financial District, the waitress couldn't name the brand of cachaça that the bar was carrying when I ordered a caipirinha. (Update: My wife reminded me that, in fact, I originally asked the waitress what brand of cachaça they used in their caipirinhas. The waitress actually said they didn't carry cachaça! This led me to ask what she thought the caipirinha was made from.) I'm pretty certain she'd have been able to rattle off every whiskey, vodka, and tequila, though.
"It just didn't sell?" In Orlando, for Pete's sake! Sure, it's probably not even close to Miami in terms of its Brazilian immigrant population, but even a Google search of local Brazilian-owned-and-related businesses would indicate that there's likely a decently sized community there.
All of this should greatly disturb more than a few cachaça marketers who read this blog. It's also not such good news for those of us who'd like cachaça to be as available as vodka or tequila.
We've seen the ads. We've seen the onanistically conceived web sites. We've seen the
viral videos that brands hope will go viral. For all that, though, cachaça simply won't be successful in the U.S. until brands take the time to educate every step of the product's delivery to consumers both current and wished-for.