Leblon neighbours Ipanema to the West and seems to be where most of the drinking holes are. I started off at Bracaranse (85B Rua José Linhares); a buzzing neighbourhood bar with a comfortable well-worn feel.
Cachaca varies from normal rum in that it’s made from fresh sugar cane that is fermented and distilled whereas other rums are made from molasses, a by product from making sugar. it was banned in Brazil for many years and it has over 700 other names as inventive Brazilian home distillers to deceive the authorities! Now Brazil produces 1.3 billion litres of it every year.
I started with a Caipirinha Providencia; made with brown sugar rather than the usual white which gave it a pretty murky appearance, but it tasted pretty good (B). They have lots of other unusual combinations too like orange and ginger, passion fruit or honey, as well as Caipiroskas which are made with vodka instead of Cachaca.
Following on from this a ‘dose’ (shot) of matured Pitu Gold, which smelt sublime (A). I followed this with a 16-year-old Jacutinga, one of the oldest ‘maturadas’ on the menu, which again had a great nose (A). Most of the choices were between £2 and £6 a shot but there were some matured Cachacas that were as much as £15!
You can also buy whole bottles to take away. For the record the most expensive (and best?) were the Piragibana (225 reals a bottle), Gosto Requintado Mundial (260 reals), Anisio Santiago (265), Armazem Viera Oni (320) and the Germana Heritage (395).
Just down the road (290 Rua Dias Ferreira) there is the flagship branch of Zona Sul supermarket. If you want to buy some Brazilian ingredients to take home (eg special sugar for making Capirinhias), this is the place to come. They were open at midnight when I was passing.
I had one final Caipirinha in Bar Veloso on Rua Aristides Espinola (corner with Avenida General San Martin). It was buzzing when I was there with a smart young crowd. It takes its name from the original bar (now called Garota de Ipanema at 49 Rua Vinicius de Moraes) where Carlos Jobim wrote the lyrics for his most famous song.