Pisco is a brandy, or aguardiente, originally distilled from white muscat grapes in the area around Pisco, Peru. First cultivated in the sixteenth century by Spanish settlers in South America, it was named for the conical pottery in which it was originally produced–as well as for the name of its town of origin. (The right to produce and promote pisco has been a source of tension, debate, and both national and international legal action between Peru and Chile as both claim ownership of the “Pisco” denomination. However the original Pisco Trail is situated along a 1300km stretch of Peruvian coastline, where the vast production of pure Pisco is produced. It was first introduced to North America during the California gold rush.
The Pisco Sour, an iconic cocktail in Peru, is a variation of the Whiskey Sour, and was invented in the early 1920s by Victor V. “Gringo” Morris at the Morris’ Bar in Lima. It is a sweet blend of pisco, lemon or lime juice, egg whites, simple syrup, and regional bitters.
Peru has a National Pisco Sour Day, in honour of their national drink, which is celebrated on the first Saturday of February. The theme is red and white (Peruvian flag colours), and when the Peruvian National Anthem is played all Pisco Sours must be finished as a mark of respect. At Pisco Bar in Lima, an elderly man leans in to impart his wisdom. “Pisco Sour is like a woman’s breasts.” He tells me. “Ok… How so?” I ask. “Because you can’t have only one, but you should never have more than two.”
• 2 ½ ounces Pisco
• ¾ ounce freshly squeezed lemon or lime
• ½ simple syrup (or sugar and ice to taste)
• 1 egg white
• angostura bitters
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine ingredients. Cover, shake vigorously, and strain into a cocktail glass. Top with a few drops of bitters. OR: In a blender, combine ice and ingredients, and then whirl until smooth. Serve in a cocktail glass with a dash of aromatic bitters and a wedge of lime.
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Associate Publisher and Executive Editor of DINE and Destinations magazine.