Made from sugarcane, cachaca has always been sold in the United States under the label "Brazilian rum," but a recent decision by the U.S. Treasury's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau allows for it to be commercialized under its Portuguese name.
While the measure took effect last week, it will take Brazilian producers about a year to re-label their bottles. Producers hope the change will prove a sales windfall.
The vast majority of cachaca is consumed domestically, much of it sipped in Brazil's famed caipirinha cocktails with lime, sugar and crushed ice.
Exports of the spirit totaled $20 million last year, according to the Brazilian Cachaca Institute. Sales in the United States accounted for $2 million of the total, but the institute hopes the new labels will turn Brazil's North American neighbor into the engine that drives cachaca exports globally.
"Success in the United States will help increase sales of cachaca around the world," the institute said in a February statement.
Produced since the early 16th century, cachaca is now made by more than 5,000 distillers throughout Brazil. Techniques vary from distillery to distillery and are often closely guarded secrets, but the basics remain constant. Cachaca is made from fresh-pressed sugarcane juice, extracted using a large roller press. The juice is filtered and then fermented in tanks.
Rum is usually distilled from sugarcane molasses. But both spirits come in two varieties, light and unaged and dark and aged, which generally is meant to be drunk pure.
Galeno Furtado, a producer in the city of Alexania, about 35 miles (60 kilometers) west of the Brazilian capital of Brasilia, makes cachaca in copper stills.
Furtado's claim to fame is that his cachaca is 100 percent organic "from the sugarcane to final distillation," he says.
It's so popular with foreign consumers that Furtado says most of his cachaca production is shipped overseas.