Food & DrinksRecipes

Chef’s Sunday: Chilcano of Pisco, A Popular Peruvian Cocktail

One of Peru’s favorite drinks, the chilcano de pisco carries the name of  well known sea food soup from Peru’s coast that has lots of lime juice and ají, hot pepper. On seeing these ingredients the creator of the drink was inspired and gave the same name to this very refreshing cocktail.

The drink derives from an Italian tradition. They say that the Italians in Perú would drink grappa, an Italian aguardiente made from the skins left over when wine grapes were pressed. The Italians would mix the grappa with Canada Dry or with Ginger Ale and a few slices of lime. The Italians called this drink “buon giorno” and it was a very popular drink at the beginning of the last century.

All of this served as inspiration for a good Peruvian bartender who wanted to break routines and invent new drinks. What better ingredient as a point of departure that Peru’s symbolic aguardiente, Pisco. It is aromatic and filled with freshness with a perfect percentage of alcohol. On the other hand, Ginger Ale was a good complement. Made from ginger, what we Peruvians call “kion”, it is a soda used in many cocktails around the world. On mixing Ginger Ale with Pisco a harmony without equal is obtained. The aroma and flavor of the ginger with the freshness of Pisco and the acidity of a squirt of lime juice close the circle of scent, freshness, and flavor.

As a variation of the Italian cocktail buon giorno, chilcano becomes a cocktail with identity, since its base is Pisco. It gains a great fame throughout South America. Chilcano became the “king of parties” in all of Lima since it is easy to make.  It competes with the pisco sour.

Pisco on the Shelf
Pisco on the Shelf

As such a good drink it could not be held back and Peruvian bartenders continue to develop  this majestic cocktail. They have created many varieties with the juices of different fruit from the Peruvian jungle. They add wild leaves and roots from our highlands and in this way have made a great variety of cocktails for both men and women.

Not everyone wants evolution, though. Many are content with the traditional. As a result since the forties, when Pisco was added to this cocktail, the emblematic popular bars of Lima’s center, bring together the pisqueros—the fans of Pisco—every weekend to celebrate friendship. Some historic Pisco bars in Lima are the Bolivariano and the Queirolo in Pueblo Libre. These are two emblematic places where up till the present the lovers of  Pisco come together to enjoy the traditional drink in the old tables and remember golden times.

It is always a good moment to enjoy a refreshing Peruvian chilcano.  You can be adventurous and make your own chilcano by mixing the ingredients and giving free rein to your imagination.  Or, you can always go to a good bar and ask for a Peruvian chilcano.  In either case enjoy the experience.

Peru's Great Limes
Peru’s Great Limes

Chilcano of Pisco


3 ounces of Pisco

½  ounce lime juice

4 ice cubes

4 ounces of Ginger Ale

1 lime in slices

½ ounce of simple syrup (optional)


1.  Chill your glass.

2. Add the Pisco directly to your glass.

3. Add lime juice.

4. Add simple syrup.

5. Add ice.

6. Complete Ginger Ale.

7. Stir for a few seconds with a bar spoon so that the ingredients fuse.

8. Decorate with a slice of lime.

9.  Enjoy.

Chilcano de Pisco
Chilcano de Pisco

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