South America Living

That Pisco Packs A Punch!


Signature cocktails? Um yeah…I love ‘em. They tell you something about history. Whether it’s the history of an establishment: like the Bloody Mary & the St Regis. Or the importance they lend to a country’s identity. Many countries have cocktails firmly rooted in their nation’s history and culture.  From the Margarita of Mexico to the Caipirinha of Brazil and the Pisco Sour of Peru, signature cocktails have been shaped and influenced by politics, agriculture and international trade.

The first time I drank Pisco — I got loaded. Come to think of it, pretty much every time I drink Pisco I get loaded. Maybe it’s because it looks so benign. Served in a deceptively little glass with frothy egg whites shimmering on the glassy surface. Festooned with the obligatory drop of bitters.

But you’ve got to bear in mind…Pisco is a brandy. And it’s like 50 proof. Which isn’t so bad in and of itself, but when coupled with drinking at high altitude, can get you pretty wasted. Fortunately, it’s unlikely you will be driving anywhere…and the hangover is fairly mild, especially when treated with some late night anticuchos or the like.

Chief ingredient in the Pisco Sour is, not surprisingly, pisco, a brandy distilled from grapes first concocted in 16th Century Peru.  From there, the cocktail adds fresh lemon juice, an egg white, sugar and bitters.  Like many classic cocktails, the exact origin of the Pisco Sour is shrouded in mystery, but it’s generally believed to have been created in the 1920s by an American expatriate living in Peru.  Shortly thereafter, the drink gained notoriety when it was popularized by President Augusto B. Leguía.  His appreciation for the Pisco Sour—as a drink created in Peru from a Peruvian liquor—helped to drive cocktail culture in Peru and resulted in the Pisco Sour being recognized as the country’s national cocktail.

While the Pisco Sour—and pisco—is most closely associated with Peru, it’s also the national cocktail of Chile and is important to the country’s gastronomical identity.  The flavor of pisco varies between the two countries due to land and growing conditions, but each variety stands up well as the base in a traditional pisco sour.

The pisco, lemon juice and egg white combine to form a frothy, refreshing mix, while the sugar tempers the ingredients to create a sweeter cocktail. I don’t need to remind you of the importance of booking accommodations in advance; and when you find yourself in Peru, don’t miss out on enjoying a Pisco Sour in the land of its birth.  But you don’t have to be IN South America to enjoy “la vida” — So, even easier, try making one at home.

And,as always, Buen Provecho!

Pisco Sour
1 ½ ounces pisco

½ ounce fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 egg white

1 dash Angostura bitters

Add all ingredients except bitters to a cocktail shaker.  Shake hard, without ice, so the egg emulsifies with the other ingredients.  Add ice and reshake until cold, then strain into a cocktail glass.  Top with a dash of bitters.

Logo Header Menu