Chef’s Sunday: Pisco Sour, Peru’s National Cocktail

The subtle scent of cinnamon and the delicious flavor of pisco united with the sharpness of Peruvian lime make an incredible mixture that is Peru’s national cocktail.   Euphoria has greeted it around the world in the last few years.

This marvelous cocktail is made on the base of pisco, a brandy like, distilled wine, that has obtained a Protected Designation of Origin (denominación de origen) as Peruvian and made in the region of Ica to the south of Lima.  Thanks to Peru’s variety of micro-climates there is a whole range of products available from the coast, mountains, and jungle.  Pisco is one of them.

This liquor has been made since the end of the sixteenth century even though wine grapes are not native to Peru.  They arrived around the middle of the sixteenth century from the Canary Islands and inundated the valleys of Ica.  Initially they were used to produce wine, but then the path opened for the distillation of the wine and the production of pisco.  Sometime later the distilled wine began to be exported from the port of Pisco to Europe. From that point of embarkation the beverage took its name.

The specific qualities of pisco depend on the hot son of Ica where the grapes are cultivated according to the established cycle of production.  At the end of the growing season the clusters of grapes are gathered in baskets traditionally.  The modern wineries, however, do not use this method anymore in order to save time and money.

After the harvest all the grapes are placed in a large vat with an orifice from which the grap juice can flow.  Next a trio of persons traditionally steps on the grapes until only the residue of skins and seeds remains.

Once the grape juice is obtained, it passes to fermentation vats where through a chemical effect the sugars are transformed into alcohol and throw off carbon dioxide.  After the fermentation the juice travels through tubes to the area of the still where the process of distillation takes place. The  liquid is heated to a high temperature changes physical state. It becomes a gas which then condenses again into a liquid. Through this process the red color of the grape juice is lost and it is transformed into a colorless liquid without impurities.

Peruvian Pisco, Manuel González Olaechea y Franco, /wiki/File:Pisco.JPG#file
Peruvian Pisco, Manuel González Olaechea y Franco, /wiki/File:Pisco.JPG#file

Afterwards the product goes for tasting to make sure that the proper aromas became part of the liquid and that they were not lost due to errors in handling.  Finally the pisco is bottled and readied for sale.

Now lets go to the other extreme. In the far north coast of Peru, in the region of Piura, the fabulous Peruvian lime (called limón) is grown. It has the perfect level of acidity and the right flavor and perfume. As a result it is the star of many cocktails and Peru’s famous ceviche. This is all due to the balanced acidity that it has.  Limes from other places and countries, because of differences in climate and because of the forms they have cannot compare with the Peruvian lime.

The difference is enormous. The Peruvian lime in its form and the climate in which it is grown takes on unique attributes. Even if the trees are grown in other areas the fruit is not the same.

Once there two great products with their own long histories are joined in a cocktail you obtain an amazing result. The aroma of the fresh lime with cinnamon invites you to taste the drink and hold it on your palate. The mixture of pisco with chilled lime juice and a subtle sweetness causes flavors to explode in your mouth.  At the same time it refreshes our whole body. But you must be careful. This cocktail enters softly but it takes hold strongly.

Peruvian Limes for Sale in Cuzco
Peruvian Limes for Sale in Cuzco

Pisco Sour


6 oz pisco

2 oz lime juice, and egg white.

2 oz simple syrup (called jarabe de goma in Peru)

1 fresh egg white

5 ice cubes

Cinnamon or angostura bitters


For ten seconds blend the ice, pisco, simple syrup, lime juice, and egg white.

Serve in a wide mouthed glass and dust top with cinnamon


Pisco Sour
Pisco Sour, Cheers.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button