One of the great pleasures about travel is you just never know when you are going to stumble over “the next great discovery” in your life. This country in South America has a touch of mysticism about it and indeed delivered for me at least two of those great discoveries, including this great cocktail, Pisco Sour.
Welcome to Peru. Home to Machu Picchu, which left me deeply touched as to its significance and the sheer, spiritual power surrounding it, but that story is for another day. Today we are talking about the second great discovery, that of the Pisco Sour!
The national drink of Peru, the Pisco Sour is now my favorite cocktail. Not unlike a margarita but far superior in my view. Long considered the culinary capital of the South American continent, Peruvians are justifiably proud of their national drink. It’s also the national drink of Chile and there is robust discussion as to whose Pisco Sour is better and who discovered it.
The liquor, Pisco, is combined with simple syrup, fresh lime juice and fresh egg white, shaken in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice, popped in a glass and topped with 2 drops of Angostura bitters. The result is a rich, creamy drink that just leaves you wanting more. They make the perfect sundowner or pre-dinner drink or two.
Pisco Sour is the Great Undiscovered Cocktail
In a world always looking for the next big thing, it is a giant surprise to me Pisco still remains “undiscovered”. Trust me it deserves your attention. In my opinion the Pisco Sour is the best cocktail I have ever tasted, be it Peruvian or Chilean.
Almost every drinking establishment in Peru has this mighty drink on happy hour leading up to dinner time. A drink will set you back about $2-$3 during this time.Unlike in this recipe, in Peru and Chile, this drink is traditionally made with Pica lemons. Small round lemons. However we have never been able to find pica lemons outside South America, so limes seem to be the generally accepted substitute. It still makes a fine drink. But what is Pisco?
Pisco is distilled grape juice. (You may recall from Italian Wine, Grappa and Tiramisu: Unwinding in Veneto, that Italian Grappa is made from distilled grape waste.) Like wine, and grappa, it can be made from different varieties of grapes, each exhibiting different characteristics. It may also be blended from a combination of grape varieties. There are essentially 3 different styles:
- Pisco Puro is made from one type of grape and can be aromatic (there is a wide variety) or non-aromatic, the Pisco used for making Pisco Sours.
- Pisco Mosto Verde made from grape juices that have not been totally distilled. Requires more grapes and has a subtle, full body taste.
- Pisco Acholado is a combination of aromatic Pisco (for structure) and non-aromatic Pisco (for the palate). High secrecy guards the exact proportions used by the distillers.
A Visit to the Museo Del Pisco
If you are lucky enough to visit Peru, you will have the opportunity to visit the Museo Del Pisco in either Cusco or Arequipa. We visited the Cusco establishment and it was a fun evening.
At the museum you can learn how to make the ubiquitous Pisco Sour through classes. There are also Pisco tasting flights, there is a staggering range of Piscos at this place. There are also Pisco and chocolate pairings (remember this is Peru!) and broader cocktail classes.
We settled for Pisco Sours and a Pisco tasting flight which helped us wash down the rather good appetizers available at the bar.
One word of warning, the museum (ok it is a glorified bar) is extremely popular. It was noisy with tourists (like us) but in a fun and happy manner. We really enjoyed the evening and highly recommend it.
If you want to read more about how Pisco was used to pay off Sir Francis Drake (the great British mariner or pirate, depending on your point of view) and how the Pisco industry was all but destroyed in a war with Chile, then go to the Museo del Pisco website to learn more.
Meanwhile, if you are not going to Peru, but want to experience what this Pisco Sour fuss is all about, then here follows the recipe. Enjoy!
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- 3 fl ozs pisco
- 1 fl oz lime juice freshly squeezed
- 1/2 fl oz simple syrup half water, half sugar
- 1 egg white fresh
- 4 drops bitters, angostura 2 drops each glass
- 2 lime wheels as a garnish
- ice cubes
- Add the pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, and egg white to a cocktail shaker. Add ice to fill and shake vigorously.
- Strain into a champagne flute or small cocktail glass and gently add two drops of angostura bitters to each glass. The drops will settle into the foamy top of the drink. Create a pattern in the foam with a straw if you wish. Garnish each glass with a lime wheel.
Pisco is from Perú, Chile has the same spirit, but if you taste Peruvian Pisco an grape aguardiente from Chile you can find a Huge diference.
We agree Suzette. But interesting it is the national drink of both countries.
Awesome!! I’m going to Peru in 2 weeks – looking forward to trying this!!
It’s a great drink. My favorite cocktail.
You taught me a lot with your post… your travels sound fantastic! This is definitely a new drink for us to try. 🙂
Excellent to hear Ramona. Peru was well worth a visit, we loved it. And we love the pisco sour. Thanks for your comment.
April @ Girl Gone Gourmet
Okay, totally sold on this! It sounds so refreshing – can’t wait to try it 🙂
Refreshing is a good word for this drink. I find it very hard to stop at one! Thanks for your comment.
I always love trying out new cocktails…I’ll have to add this one to the list 🙂 Sounds tasty!!
Sarah, it is the national drink of 2 separate countries in South America. Try one and find out why! Thanks for your comment.
Debi at Life Currents
This sounds amazing! I would like to have one a little later today.
Good for Debi. Guaranteed to improve you mood! Thanks for your comment.
Holly @ 3 Yummy Tummies
Okay, I am adding Peru to my list of places to visit… $2 drinks and museums that are bars? It looks just beautiful! I am definitely going to try to locate some Pisco to try this marvelous sounding drink!
Yes it may be a bit cheeky calling it a museum but we enjoyed it. The pisco is a good addition to your bar. Thanks for your comment.
What an amazing post, I learned so much! Now I just want a drink 🙂
Yes a bit like that isn’t it? Thanks for your comment.
Ange @ Little Kitchen Blue
What I love about your posts and blog is that I always learn something! I’m loving the journey through Peru. This cocktail is right up my alley. Is Pisco readily available or do I need to go to a specialty shop? I really want to try this
Hey Ange, you can buy Pisco at Dan Murphy’s. The bottle you see in one of the pictures is from there. You can also use lemons. They use “pica Lemons” in Chile and Peru (about 2/3 the size of a golf ball). It really is a good drink. I will be having one myself this afternoon with some limes I just bought!. Make sure your egg white is from fresh eggs and shake vigorously. Cheers and let me know how you go.
Thank you for the article. It’s always great to learn something new. I did not know anything about this cocktail or even about Pisco in this case.
I know Julia. The very first time I visited Chile I had one of these drinks and I thought, “where has this drink been hiding all my life!”. Thanks for your comment.
Joy @ Joy Love Food
I spent some time in Chile where I certainly enjoyed a Pisco Sour or two, this brought back some fond memories, can’t wait to give your recipe a try!
Joy, the pisco sour is one of the highlights of Chile! And Peru, such a moorish drink. Thanks for your comment.
Oh! Machu Picchu!!
Love those pictures of the boats on Lake Titicaca…
so jealous of this trip! Adding Peru to my bucket list.
Noel, we loved Peru! Put it on your bucket list and go have a pisco sour there. You will love it. Thanks for your comment.
Tracy | Baking Mischief
This was such an interesting write up! I had heard of Pisco Sours before, but I had NO idea what was in it or how to make one. Does the lime and Pisco completely cut through the egg taste?
BTW, I laughed out loud at your description of the museum as a the museum “glorified bar.”
It was definitely a “glorified bar”! The “shaken” egg white gives the pisco sour a creamy texture, it is rather like a margarita (but better). Thanks for your comment.
Emma @ Supper in the Suburbs
Wow! I’d heard of pisco sours but despite my love of cocktails I’ve never actually tried one. They sound fab though 🙂 I wish I could say I might get a chance to travel to Peru soon but I highly doubt I will…I’ll just have to try your recipe at home instead 😀 thanks for sharing
Give it a go Emma, it is a great drink. The Peruvians drink them as a pre-dinner drink and also with Peruvian ceviche. Yum. Thanks for your comment.
One of my favorite drinks! Just another beautiful contribution from Peru:) Thanks for sharing this great piece and recipe. Now I’m really starting to the itch to travel again.
Then have a Pisco Sour and start planning! We really enjoyed Peru. Thanks for your comment.
Cassandrea @ chewsandbrews.ca
Great post!! I want to make this – I love any kind of citrus type of drink! But most of all, my husband and I are potentially travelling to Peru this fall, so I was excited to read a little about Peru!!
You will love Peru. We are featuring recipe and travel tips from Peru throughout January. And you will love those pisco sours. Thanks so much for your comment.
Cindy (Vegetarian Mamma)
Now this is something my husband would love! He is the drink maker in our house! He loves to make and learn about drinks!
Get him to make you one Cindy. You deserve it! And I promise you will love it. Thanks for your comment.
Loved learning all about Pisco. I had no idea that it’s distilled grape juice. Thanks for sharing!
Yes the other interesting grape-based liquor is grappa, albeit grape-skins. You can read about that here. Thanks for your comment.