You know when someone orders a Pisco Sour in a bar: For the next couple of minutes the bartender is busy furiously shaking the drink. The refreshing, frothy elixir is worth the effort. It is also, for many of us, an introduction to the wonderful South American liquor for which it’s named.
The grape-based spirit dates back to the 16th century when it first trickled out of primitive stills in Chile and Peru. Both countries claim to have created the alcohol but it’s hard to prove either case. (It should be noted that the town of Pisco and its eponymous port are located in Peru.) Chilean pisco accounts for most of the world’s supply. I find these spirits usually harsh, which might explain why in Chile it is often mixed with cola. I prefer the more flavorful and artisanal Peruvian pisco, which is generally produced in pot stills and rarely aged. BarSol, which was founded by Diego Loret de Mola, one of the foremost pisco authorities in the world, is my favorite. Macchu Pisco also has a wonderful flavor profile.
Pisco has attracted the curiosity of top bartenders recently. I’ve paired it with flavors from all over the world, including lemongrass, lychee, ginger and saffron. Try these two cocktail recipes, which show the versatility of the spirit.
Contributed by: BarSol
- 2 oz BarSol Pisco Primero
- .5 oz Fresh lime juice
- 2-3 Drops Angostura Bitters
- Ginger ale
- Garnish: Lime twist
- Glass: Highball
Add the first two ingredients to a highball glass filled with ice. Top the drink off with ginger ale and add 2 to 3 drops of bitters. Garnish with a lime twist.
Contributed by: Naren Young
- 1.5 oz BarSol Pisco Primero
- .5 oz Yellow Chartreuse
- 1 oz Lychee syrup*
- 1 oz Yellow grapefruit juice
- 4 Basil leaves
- Glass: Highball
- Garnish: Lychee and a basil leaf
Muddle the basil leaves in a shaker. Add the rest of the ingredients and ice. Shake very hard and strain into a highball glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a lychee and a basil leaf.
*You can use the syrup from a can of lychees.
TRY PISCO AT THESE BARS:
Andina, 1314 NW Glisan, Portland, OR, 503 228 9535:
If you’re looking to taste both Peruvian drinks and cuisine, make a reservation at Andina in Portland, which offers a full menu of classic dishes and Latin American cocktails.
Cantina, 580 Sutter Street, San Francisco, CA, 415 398 0195:
Drinking at Cantina is like taking a whirlwind tour of Mexico, Central and South America. The menu is filled with delicious pisco cocktails, including the Blushing Lima #2, Chilcano and the Coca Leaf Sour.
Nacional 27, 325 W Huron, Chicago, IL, 312 664 2727:
This modern Latin restaurant offers more than just gourmet food and cocktails, including the Peruvian Martini (pisco, yuzu sour, lime, egg whites, homemade bitters). There’s also a large dance floor.
Pisco Latin Lounge, 1817 Market Street, San Francisco, CA, 415 874 9951:
Pisco Latin Lounge lives up to its name and offers a revolving stock of 25 to 35 different piscos and about a dozen cocktails made with the spirit.
Yerba Buena, 23 Avenue A, New York, NY, 212 529 2919:
The hip East Village restaurant and bar has won acclaim for its tasty dishes, but it also offers a large cocktail menu, which includes the Pisco Sour, Pisco Punch and Pisco Guava.
Naren Young is the head bartender at Locanda Verde in New York City.