For 2016, National Pisco Sour Day in Peru is February 6, and there’s no better time to master this light, frothy drink made with pisco—the fragrant, grape-based brandy native to Peru and Chile—lime juice and egg whites.
It can be remarkably difficult to find a great Pisco Sour at U.S. bars. Frankly, I always thought it was a drink that I didn’t much like. But last year I traveled to Peru and found that I was wrong; I’d just never had an outstanding Pisco Sour before. At bars like Lima’s famed Country Club bar, the Pisco Sour balances perfectly between tart and sweet, and feature a cloud-light, almost ethereal foaminess that lets the delicate aromatics of the pisco shine through.
So then why is it so hard to find a decent Pisco Sour here? I consulted two experts—one in Peru and one at NYC’s La Pulperia, which makes the best pisco sour I’ve had stateside—to learn how to build the ultimate version. Both said the difference boils down to two key components.
The citrus: “Peruvian lime is practically unique,” declares Andy Valderrama Chevarría, a Lima, Peru-based brand ambassador with Destileria La Caravedo, which makes Pisco Porton. Specifically, Peru’s limon (lime) is more acidic and tart—and it’s impossible to get in the States.
But that doesn’t mean the effect can’t be approximated. Juan Bautista, head mixologist at La Pulperia, uses equal parts lemon and lime juice to punch up the sour in place of classic limon.
The egg white: For American-made Pisco Sours, this is a big stumbling block. Peru’s Sours are made with fresh egg whites for “flavor, aroma and nice body,” Chevarría explains. Outside of Peru, “many many bartenders use pasteurized egg white, but you can’t get the cocktail as foamy as it should be,” he laments. A bigger problem: Those egg whites in a carton can add a mild but off-putting scent that masks pisco’s aromatics.
The only solution: Find a bar that uses fresh egg whites, or make your own version at home (recipe below). Don’t forget to dry shake, Bautista adds, meaning a technique that involves shaking without ice, which emulsifies the egg whites for that ultimate frothy, luscious cap.
And if all else fails? It may be time to book a flight to Peru.
Courtesy Juan Bautista, La Pulperia, New York City
In a mixing tin, combine first five ingredients. Dry shake (shake without ice) for 15 seconds, then scoop in ice and shake again to chill. Double strain into a chilled coupe glass. Dot the top with drops of Angostura bitters.