The pisco sour

What to drink with your picadillo (whether a Mexican-style taco filling or a Cuban-style stew)? A spicy red wine, like grenache, perhaps. Or a dark beer. Or maybe some brandy. Juan Gomez suggested pisco to me, and I realized I’d never had any. And that took me to the pisco sour.

From Wikipedia:


A pisco sour is an alcoholic cocktail of Peruvian origin that is typical of the cuisines from Chile and Peru, considered also a South American classic. The drink’s name comes from pisco, which is its base liquor, and the cocktail term sour, in reference to sour citrus juice and sweetener components. The Peruvian pisco sour uses Peruvian pisco as the base liquor and adds freshly squeezed lime juice, simple syrup, ice, egg white, and Angostura bitters. The Chilean version is similar, but uses Chilean pisco and pica lime, and excludes the bitters and egg white. Other variants of the cocktail include those created with fruits like pineapple or plants such as coca leaves.

Although the preparation of pisco-based mixed beverages possibly dates back to the 1700s, historians and drink experts agree that the cocktail as it is known today was invented in the early 1920s in Lima, the capital of Peru, by the American bartender Victor Vaughen Morris.

… Chile and Peru both claim the pisco sour as their national drink, and each asserts ownership of the cocktail’s base liquor — pisco; consequently, the pisco sour has become a significant and oft-debated topic of Latin American popular culture. The two kinds of pisco and the two variations in the style of preparing the pisco sour are distinct in both production and taste.

The simplest version has pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, and egg white. The version at the local elegant Mexican restaurant Reposado is a slight variant of tha from their menu:

Reposado Pisco Sour: Capurro Pisco, fresh lemon juice, egg whites and house made simple syrup

The sour in the name, from NOAD:

noun sour: [with modifier] a drink made by mixing an alcoholic beverage with lemon juice or lime juice: a rum sour.

Also in whiskey sour. From Wikipedia:

The whiskey sour is a mixed drink containing whiskey (often bourbon), lemon juice, sugar, and optionally, a dash of egg white. With the egg white, it is sometimes called a Boston Sour. With a few bar spoons of full-bodied red wine floated on top, it is often referred to as a New York Sour. It is shaken and served either straight up or over ice.

The traditional garnish is half an orange slice and a maraschino cherr

A variant of the whiskey sour is the Ward 8, which often is based with bourbon or rye whiskey, and includes both lemon and orange juices, and grenadine syrup as the sweetener. The egg white sometimes employed in other whiskey sours is generally not included in this variation.

The pisco in pisco sour: from Wikipedia:

(#2) A Peruvian pisco

Pisco is a colorless or yellowish-to-amber colored brandy produced in winemaking regions of Peru and Chile. Made by distilling fermented grape juice into a high-proof spirit, it was developed by 16th century Spanish settlers as an alternative to orujo, a pomace brandy that was being imported from Spain. It had the advantages of being produced from abundant domestically grown fruit and reducing the volume of alcoholic beverages transported to remote locations.

The pisco in Reposado’s sours:

(#3) Pisco Capurro

(The company’s headquarters are in Nasca, Perú, with American headquarters in San Mateo, on the SF peninsula north of me; the family operates a Peruvian food and import business on B Street downtown.)

Pisco is first cousin to Italian grappa.


One Response to “The pisco sour”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    We discovered Pisco sours on a trip to the Galápagos about eight years ago (I think the bartender was Peruvian), and have been happily drinking them on regular occasions since. One brand of Pisco that a local liquor store often carries is called (happily or unfortunately, depending on your point of view) Machu Pisco.

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