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Who's Got Bossa?

Elyse Glickman


Rio de Janeiro is having its moment, with the World Cup slated for 2014, the Olympic Summer Games for 2016, renewed chic as a travel destination and even a discovery of oil reserves large enough to last centuries.

Cosme Gomes, however, saw this new era coming for a very long time. Over the years, he has seen his native city's image evolve internationally from the usual sun, fun and bikinis into a more complete picture of a thriving tropical urban center with a laid-back yet sophisticated lifestyle, the cultural soul of the newest powerhouse of premium consumers in the Western Hemisphere—Brazil. 

Cosme Gomez, founder of BOSSA Cachaça.

Understanding the many facets of his native country and how large and undiscovered cachaça still was internationally, Gomes set out to create a premium Brazilian spirit brand that captured his memories of growing up in Rio de Janeiro and his love of bossa nova music. In the process, BOSSA is redefining for the world what it means to be a Carioca (as Rio's locals are called) and what truly is the so-called "Brazilian spirit."

"BOSSA represents a collection of my memories of growing up in Rio's Ipanema Beach, my passion for bossa nova music, Brazil's modern art scene and my country's five-century tradition of cachaça-making," Gomes states.

"Anybody who visits Rio and takes the time to get to know the locals, the culture and lifestyle, while sipping on a tasty Caipirinha , will understand what BOSSA is about." In order to elevate cachaça above the more stereotypical imagery that is often associated with it, BOSSA was created to reveal the cool, understated, sophisticated rhythm that Rio's locals treasure the most.

The Meaning of BOSSA

BOSSA's award-winning label design was inspired by the pattern adorning the sidewalk of Rio's Ipanema Beach, the cradle of bossa nova music and Gomes's local playground.

The word bossa means "cool style," and the word's earliest uses trace back to the late 19th century in Rio, where it was first used in poetry and literature.

Much later, during the 1950s, when "bossa nova" music was still evolving, artists who were involved with the new movement embraced the term to describe the style that fused Brazilian samba and American jazz, dubbing it "bossa nova" or the "new cool style." When Gomes, at age ten, first heard the term "having bossa" used outside the music, it was from a local socialite describing a particularly elegant private home, sparking for him a more complete understanding of the meaning of the word bossa. The experience left him with an indelible memory of the word's significance in his native language.

Spirit of Brazil

Cachaça's existence, since its inception several centuries ago, has closely paralleled that of Brazil itself. Like Brazil, the cachaça market is enormous, with a whopping 200 million gallons or more being produced each year, making it the third largest spirit category in the world by volume. Cachaça, like Brazil, still is in many ways undiscovered-misunderstood even-and full of potential; and both the spirit and the country have finally come of age only recently. As Scottish brand director Angela Pirrie of Chartered Brands once said, "Cachaça is Brazil. All brands of Cachaça attempt to capture this component in their identity. BOSSA does this thru its visual brand identity, which is contemporary yet authentic."

Gomes recalls that as a child, he observed how his grandfathers and uncles living in the countryside kept alive many of the old Portuguese family traditions, including making spirits and chorizo sausages on their farmland.

"In those early days, there were hardly any industrialized candies or sodas in the Brazilian countryside-sugarcane 'rapadura' bars made from dried molasses was our natural candy," he says. "Every adult drank cachaça, usually neat and often produced by neighboring local farming families in small batches. At times, bottles were closed with a simple piece of a corncob, and the whole process was all organic and truly artisanal."

Comparing illicit American moonshine with Brazil's early cachaça, Gomes points out that, "If homemade cachaça were to have had a nickname like U.S. corn whiskey, we would have named it sunshine, instead, because the entire thing was done during the day without any stigma. It was-and still is-completely legal. Even in this sense too, cachaça is like Brazilian culture itself, unapologetic and out in the open."

The cachaça cottage industry is still ubiquitous among both rural Brazilians and affluent urbanites producing their own cachaça at weekend ranches high in the mountains. However, some of the largest and most developed state-of-the-art distilleries in the world today are Brazilian cachaça producers.

Creative Collaborations in the U.S. and Abroad

BOSSA, a Double Gold medal-winner at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, was one of the first premium cachaça brands to be developed for the global marketplace. Initially, the brand concentrated most efforts on the more developed cachaça markets of Europe and Latin America, becoming available in five other countries: the U.K., the Netherlands, Portugal, Uruguay and Germany. In Germany, BOSSA has been listed as the top-shelf cachaça choice at the high-end retail chain Galeria Kaufhof. Galeria Kaufhofis part of Germany's largest retail group, Metro Group, and BOSSA is the only new cachaça to achieve such prestigious positioning in the last five years.

Beyond placement in notable restaurants such as South Florida's Villagio (see sidebar), some of the brand's more high-profile collaborations happened organically. One such example was securing a nationwide bottle placement in the trend-setting home design stores CB2, Crate & Barrel's modern destination.

By design: The BOSSA Cachaça bottle accents the lifestyle and esthetic that has made CB2 one of the most popular home design destinations among sophisticated urbanites.

Impressed with CB2's "one-of-a-finds" design selections, Gomes approached Crate & Barrel and told them about BOSSA and how he believed CB2's customers would appreciate it. Since then, BOSSA bottles can be seen adorning CB2 store displays across the U.S. "Admiring customers regularly ask us to sell them the empty BOSSA bottles for their own home decoration," South Beach store Visual Merchant Alex Schulman notes.

The exposure at CB2 became like a "certificate of cool" for BOSSA and it has prompted inquiries about product availability and event sponsorship opportunities stretching from San Francisco to New York.

Around the same time, Rio-based H. Stern Jewelers reached out to BOSSA about stocking BOSSA Cachaça at their airport stores Boutique Brasil in Rio de Janeiro. H. Stern's head of merchandising felt that the product, from the inside out, was compatible with their own up-market image as a design leader in Brazil and around the world.

Another development that validates BOSSA 's potential in the U.S. as a unique Brazilian design brand was a call received from Lenny Kravitz's assistant in Manhattan. Kravitz was planning a launch party for his Brazil-inspired collection of wallpaper with Flavor Paper of New York, and the rocker/designer wanted BOSSA to be the spirit sponsor and they even offered to pay for the expenses to fly the product express from BOSSA's warehouse in Europe.

Like CB2, this was another clear piece of evidence that BOSSA's target market-style-conscious trendsetters-are naturally connecting with the brand.

Next Steps for BOSSA

This year, cachaça is finally being officially recognized in the U.S. as a product exclusively from Brazil, and major spirits groups, including Bacardi, Campari and just recently Diageo, have all invested in their own brands of cachaça. Consequently, Gomes now feels he can no longer rely exclusively on BOSSA's organic growth and is for the first time considering industry partners, including investors, to help him to spread the word about BOSSA on these shores and beyond.

"Cachaça is hot, and Brazil is getting even hotter," assesses Gomes. "So, we are looking forward to allying with partners who are committed to helping BOSSA tell the story of why Brazil is like no other place on earth—and why BOSSA is the right brand to represent it."

BOSSA On-Premise

"When I was working in the U.K., I first encountered BOSSA after several years of looking for a unique product to complete my bartending repertoire," recalls Fabrizio Buono, General Manager at Villagio, an upscale Italian restaurant in affluent Coral Gables, Florida.

Buono, who describes himself as a "cocktail" with his mixed British, Argentine and Italian heritage, continues, "After five years in Miami catering to very discerning Latin customers, I was thrilled when BOSSA became available here at Villagio. At that time, we were actively seeking a spirit that would mix with a range of different fresh fruits and offer our mixologists versatility. 
BOSSA is now bringing "Carioca" stateside via promotions at hand-selected venues such as Villagio Restaurant & Bar in Coral Gables, Florida. Here, BOSSA founder Cosme Gomes (right) is pictured with Villagio Manager Fabrizio Buono.

Though the traditional Caipirinha sells well, we know that we often have to go beyond traditional to touch our customers' hearts." Hence, the BOSSA Passion, a Caipirinha variation that's a best-seller at Villagio.

"Cosme has been a great ally," says Buono, "often coming to the restaurant to train our staff and work with us to bring a lively Brazilian flair to our Italian menu."

BOSSA Passion

2 oz. BOSSA Cachaça
1 whole lime, quartered
2 tsp. of fine sugar
1 oz. fresh passion fruit purée

Muddle lime with sugar in a lowball glass. Add BOSSA and passion fruit pureé over ice. Stir.

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