The Ultimate Pisco Sour
October 12, 2010 § Leave a comment
Pisco sour is a cocktail made from Pisco, lemon or lime juice, egg whites, simple syrup and bitters – like Rum Punch is to the Caribbean – Pisco Sour is to Peru. Pisco is the national beverage of Peru – and Pisco Sour is the national cocktail.
Pisco is a liquor made from distilled grapes the process goes back to colonial times. Pisco is is not a wine – it’s a high-octane grape brandy between 76 and 96 proof. The district of Ica (located on the coast of Peru south of Lima) is the Pisco Capital of Peru. It’s here that the grapes are grown and Pisco is produced.
The first Pisco Vineyards were planted on the coast of Peru shortly after the arrival of the Spanish. The Marquis Francisco de Carvantes was the first to bring grapes to Peru importing them from the Canary Islands in 1553.
In the late 1550’s the Spanish began to harvest and export the grapes selected to produce wines with – those grapes, which were deemed unacceptable, were discarded and given to the farmers to do with what they pleased. A small group of these farmers began to distill the grapes into a brandy and Pisco was born.
During the 18th and 19th century Pisco was the mainstay of sailors who enjoyed Pisco due to its low cost and high availability. A position it retained until the onset of Rum, which had a lower price and softer flavor. Though today it is an uncommon beverage in the rest of the world in Peru Pisco remains the drink of choice. Since 2003, Peru has celebrated with a National Pisco Sour Day on the first weekend of February each year.
As you discover the world of Pisco you’ll find it comes in different levels of quality. It is generally accepted there are four categories of Pisco:
- Pisco Puro – is made from only a single variety of grape to be accepted as “pure”. The most common grapes used for Pisco puro are the Quebranta, however Mollar and Common Black can also be used. These grapes are non-aromatic and produce the highest quality of Pisco.
- Pisco Aromatico – produced from Muscat or a Muscat derived varietal, the Italia, Albilla or Torontel this Pisco has a fruity flavor derived from the more aromatic fruit. Though several different grapes can be used to produce Pisco Aromatico only one type of grape is accepted per production lot. (Chilean Piscos are classified as Aromatico)
- Pisco Acholado – is made from a blend of both non-aromatic and aromatic grapes.
- Pisco Mosto Verde – is made from partially fermented grapes – this is a poor man’s Pisco and not typically seen for sale. It has a higher alcoholic contenet and a strong odor and taste.
Pisco Puro and Pisco Acholado are the most common types of Piscos found in Peru.
Creating the perfect Pisco Sour is highly debated especially between those people from the Ica District and those from other areas of Peru – the largest area of debate is the amount of Pisco and the amount of foam. Locals believe that the perfect Pisco Sour should be mostly cocktail with only a slight foam as an garnish, where people from other areas believe the foam should be at least in equal distribution with the cocktail if not more.
Ultimate Pisco Sour Recipe from Nazca (the Ica District)
Into a shaker combine
1 ounce of lemon juice – or ½ lemon and ½ lime juice 1 ounce of simple syrup 3 ounces Pisco Puro
Shake for approximately 15 seconds
Add a 1/4 cup crushed ice 1 teaspoon egg whites
Shake for an additional 15 seconds
Pour into a rocks glass and garnish with a drop of bitters on top and enjoy!