Classic Pisco Sour Cocktail
Pisco Sour is a South American favourite. There’s even a Pisco Sour Day that’s celebrated in Peru on the first Saturday of February. It’s a potent libation but sipping through the head of sweet foam to reach the chilled sour liquid underneath makes for a splendid taste and texture experience.
The origin of the Pisco Sour is enthusiastically disputed but the most accepted tale has it hailing from Lima. The creator is said to have been a North American bartender called Victor Vaughen Morris who moved to Peru for the mining opportunities in 1903. He later owned the wood-panelled Morris Bar near the heart of the city, off the Plaza de Armas, and made the drink as an alternative to the Whiskey Sour. Apparently the modern version wasn’t born until the 1920s when bartender Mario Bruige added an egg white and Angostura bitters.
75ml Pisco brandy. I used 1615 Pisco Quebranta.
25ml freshly squeezed lime juice. You want it as sharp as possible. Many recipes use lemon juice, which possibly stems from a translation error—lemon in Spanish is limon but Limones are small South American limes, similar to key limes and also known as Peruvian lemons.
25ml simple syrup. I made a syrup with Muscovado sugar which gives the finished cocktail a slightly golden colour.
1 egg white, which creates a smooth and silky texture and imparts very little flavour.
1. Pour the Pisco, lime juice, syrup and egg white into a shaker.
2. Dry-shake for 10 seconds to build a decent amount of foam from the egg white.
3. Add ice. Shake vigorously until the shaker is painfully cold to hold.
4. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a chilled glass. You should get a good 10 to 15mm layer of foam on top.
5. Garnish with a few drops of Angostura Bitters.
Pisco is the national spirit of Peru and Chile. Legend has it Pisco came about in the 16th century and, to this day, both countries claim it as their invention. The best pisco is generally acknowledged to come from the Ica valley in Peru and the Elqui region of Chile.
Pisco is technically a brandy made from grapes fermented into wine, then distilled. There are 4 types:
Puro is produced from only black, non-aromatic grapes, commonly the quebranta variety. These were the original grapes brought from Spain, which supposedly changed and adapted to their new environment, resulting in a unique taste.
Aromatico is made from more fruity and aromatic muscatel, italia, albilla, and torontel grapes.
Acholado is a blend of a non-aromatic grape and one or more of the aromatic varieties.
Mosto verde is a rare speciality where fermentation of the wine is halted before distillation to maintain some residual sugars for a more supple mouthfeel. This style of pisco is like a reserve wine, best sipped straight to fully appreciate the complex flavours and aromas.
Puro and acholado are most often used to make Pisco Sours.
In Peru, pisco production is governed by traditional and very strict rules. Pisco is made from a range of 8 grapes and must be aged for a minimum of three months in vessels that cannot alter the flavour—no oak is allowed. It must be bottled immediately after ageing, without additives or dilution. It is distilled once in large vessels to a designated alcohol content between 38% and 48%.
In Chile, pisco is made from a range of 14 different grapes. It can be distilled multiple times, aged in wood, and is sometimes mixed with distilled water to reach the desired alcohol content of 30%, 35%, 40% and 43%.