The Pisco Sour is an acknowledged classic by anyone’s measure, but it has lived in a state of semi-obscurity for a long time. Tangy and refreshing, this cocktail offers a unique combination of earthy flavor and rich mouth feel that everyone can appreciate.
Introduced to the Pisco Sour by the fierce pride expressed by a host at a local South American restaurant, my wife Patti immediately added a bottle of Pisco to our home bar. After doing some research, I found a delicious drink that possesses a wealth of history and even a touch of controversy.
What Is Pisco?
Pisco is a lightly colored South American spirit produced in the winemaking regions of Peru and Chile. Essentially a brandy distilled from wine, Pisco can vary widely based on its source and is similar to Grappa in my opinion.
In sampling Peruvian Pisco (Barsol Primero Quebranta), it offers a distinctive aroma of wine while the initial taste delivers a slight bite. Afterward, I picked up savory flavors like lime and grass which remind me of tequila. I’m not sure I’d drink it straight up, but I’m sure I’d get used to it.
Peruvian vs. Chilean
A source of national pride for each country, Pisco and the Pisco Sour are both claimed by both Peru and Chile as their own. Dating back to the 16th century when the Spanish settled the region, it’s no wonder there’s some confusion around the origin of Pisco //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pisco. But to stir it up even more, the Pisco Sour is the National Cocktail of both countries and each has its own legend surrounding its origins.
Frankly, I’m not going to get into the middle of that debate. But if Peru and Chile hold this cocktail in such high esteem, you should give it a shot.
Pisco Sour Recipe
As with recipes of all kinds there are many different versions and the Pisco Sour is no exception. I started with the following basic recipe and then made adjustments based on my taste. I recommend that you do the same
- 3 oz. Pisco
- 1 oz. Simple Syrup
- 1 oz. Key Lime Juice
- 1 Egg White
- 3 Dashes Angostura Bitters
- Ice Cubes
Key Limes vs. Persian (Regular) Limes
I busted my ass to find Key Limes and in the end I’m not sure it was worth the effort. We did a head-to-head comparison of both the fruit and the drinks. We found that the Key Limes are definitely different; the juice is tart and not as sweet. I found that I actually preferred the use of regular limes, but if you can get Key Limes for your Pisco Sour recipe I’d do it.
Mixing a Pisco Sour is fairly simple, but there are a couple complications. The recipe provided requires the use of Key Limes which can be difficult to locate. In addition, the Pisco Sour requires some vigorous shaking to mix the ingredients and generate the foam that is a key component to this cocktail. Despite these snags, it’s still pretty easy:
- Add the Pisco, Simple Syrup, Key Lime Juice& Egg White Into a Cocktail Shaker
- Seal the Shaker & Shake Vigorously to Mix The Ingredients (10 sec.)
- Add Ice to the Shaker, Seal It and Shake It! (10 sec.)
- Strain the Pisco Into a Chilled Old Fashioned Glass
- Garnish With Three Drops of Bitters
Serving the Pisco Sour is pretty straight-forward. However you can add a nice touch by swirling the bitters through the top layer of foam with toothpick or the end of a bar spoon.
Other Pisco Recipes
While Pisco has certainly become increasingly popular, it’s certainly not main stream so the number of alternative recipes is limited. However these are two that I’m definitely going to try:
Chilean Pisco Sour
Certainly Peruvian and Chilean Pisco Sours are different; most notably, the Chilean version does not use egg whites. Regardless, if you have a desire to check out how these cocktails differ, find a Chilean Pisco Sour recipe here
Created by bar tender Duncan Nicol in San Francisco during the California Gold Rush (in 1853), Pisco Punch was described by one writer as “it tastes like lemonade but comes back with the kick of a roped steer.” Get more information on Pisco Punch here .*Note: I’m working on this one, so keep an eye out for our recipe.
The Pisco Sour is a refreshing cocktail ideal for warmer weather. It has a unique sweet and sour taste with a distinct bite that few other cocktails posses. I highly recommend giving it a try.
Despite my recommendation, it’s not going to be for everyone. If you have limited space for your home bar, may not be the best choice unless you’d like to play mixologist to create cocktails that suit your own personal taste.