A brief history of Pisco brandy, and the invention of the Pisco sour cocktail.
Where to sample best Pisco sours in Lima.
How to prepare the perfect Pisco sour!
In 2003, Peru created El Dia Nacional del Pisco Sour (National Pisco Sour Day), an annual public holiday on the first Saturday of February, celebrating the tangy, sweet - and undeniably intoxicating - Peruvian cocktail, which is both delicious and addictive!
This concoction of Pisco, lemon juice, egg white and sugar syrup liquidized, and served with a dash of Angostura bitters, has a long history dating back to the arrival of the Spanish in the Americas. Legend has it that when the Spaniards arrived, they brought wine grapes, but a fortuitous error in the winemaking process resulted in a smoky-flavored, viscous, clear brandy which came to become Peru’s national drink.
The fertile soil and dry sunny climate of the Ica valley make it ideal for growing grapes, and this area has become the key production area of Pisco and wine.
The invention of the Pisco sour cocktail is generally credited to American bartender Victor Vaughen Morris, who originally came to Peru in 1903 to work for the Cerro de Pasco railway company. In 1916, he opened Morris' Bar in central Lima, which attracted English-speaking foreigners and upper class Peruvians. Here, Morris and his bar staff would experiment with different drink combinations, and the winning combination of the Pisco sour, that we know today, gradually evolved from trial and error in the early 1920s.
Sadly, Morris' Bar closed down in 1929, and Morris himself died soon afterwards. By this time, though, the popularity of his cocktail had spread and it was being offered in rival establishments, such as Hotel Bolivar in central Lima, and the 'English Bar' at the Country Club Hotel in San Isidro, which are still in existence.
Lima Cricket & Football Club, in Magdalena del Mar, is another traditional locale where you can drink a well-prepared Pisco sour ... whilst surrounded by pictures of Queen Elizabeth II and old cricket bats and hockey sticks!
How to prepare:
- 3 parts Pisco
- 2 parts sugar water
- 1 part lime juice
- 1 egg white
- Crushed ice
- Angostura bitters
Make the sugar water by dissolving as much sugar as the water can take. (In Peru, prepared syrup called jarabe de goma is often used.)
In a blender, mix the pisco, sugar water, lime juice, and ice; when blended add the egg white and blend again for a frothy consistency.
Pour into glasses, top with a couple of drops of bitters, and serve immediately.
Pisco can also be drunk neat, often as a digestif. Moreover, many people and bars like to macerate their own Pisco with different fruits or leaves. The preparation is simple: in a damajuana (big glass bottle), you add the fruit or element to be macerated, then pour the Pisco over it and leave it for 8 weeks. The alternatives are endless, but some of the more common are made with coca leaves, peach, raisins, cinnamon and coffee seeds.
If you are interested in visiting the wine and Pisco region around Ica, an oasis town where grapes irrigated by the Ica River flourish, we can add this to our Paracas & Nazca Lines itinerary. Until then, 'salud'!