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In the interests of research, I attended a masterclass on the fiery Peruvian spirit Pisco. The Peruvian tourist board are keen to promote the ‘Pisco route’. The first thing I learnt is the Peruvian Pisco differs from its Chilean rival in being distilled by traditional artisan methods. The fermented grape juice or must has no additives by law, not even water. It is a great source of national pride. The methods date back to the Spanish colonization in the 16th century. The name comes from a small town on the Pacific coastal desert, near to one of the oases where the grapes are grown. Legend has it that pre-columbian cultures over a thousand years ago honoured local birds, the pisku (probably small waders that are found in large numbers like sanderlings). Pure Pisco is made from a single grape variety such as Quebranta, with raisin and apple taste or Mollar with a herbal, honey flavour or Uvina with a touch of olive or Moscatel with sweeter peachy overtones. A mixed ‘acholado’ Pisco can be made to make a more complex beverage. The drink is not aged in wood nor in any material that can impart a flavour so traditionally in ceramic jars (also these came to be named piscos) and now stainless steel.

The history too is fascinating. Originally produced by the Jesuits it was sent to all corners of the Spanish empire. Pisco was exported to California during the Gold rush days as all cargo from eastern North America had to go around Cape Horn, making it a cheaper option. In the 1950’s Lima was popular with Hollywood stars. Orson Wells and Ava Gardner stayed at the Grand Hotel Bolivar, John Wayne at the Hotel Maury. Wayne married a Peruvian who became his lifelong companion, but that is another story. The most famous cocktail at the time was the Pisco sour, a mixture of Pisco, lime, sugar, ice, egg white and bitters. I tried an alternative cocktail called ‘The Pisco Punch’, which dates to 19th century San Francisco. This has pineapple, lime juice, sugar, and secret ingredient gum arabic, that allegedly delays the effect of the alcohol, cheers.
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How to make a Pisco Sour


At a recent Chile event held at the National Geographic shop in London’s Knightsbridge, I had the pleasure of a master-class and tasting of this iconic South American cocktail. The Pisco Sour is unusual in being the National Drink of both Peru and Chile. The origins of which are disputed by historians and a rivalry continues today. Some suggest that the cocktail was invented by Vaughn Morris, an American bartender living in Peru in the 1920s. Others attribute the invention of the cocktail to Elliot Stubb, an English steward who allegedly mixed the drink in the port city of Iquique (which was part of Peru at the time).

The main difference between the cocktails is the Pisco itself. Peruvian Pisco is made for any of 8 approved varietals and is a pure distillate of a young wine. Nothing else is added to it and it is not left to age but rests for 3 months. Chilean Pisco is made by fermenting the grape juice before it enters the distillation process. The Chileans only have 3 approved varietals of grape and it is left to age, usually in oak casks which give it a yellowish tint.

Chilean Pisco sours tend to leave out the egg white and do not use bitters as they do in the Peruvian Recipe.

Here we will show you how to make a Chilean Pisco Sour.

3 ounces Chilean Pisco
1 ounce lemon juice
1 -2 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup crushed ice

1. Add crushed ice and sugar to a shaker followed by Pisco and topped with lemon juice.
2. Vigorously shake until the sugar has completely dissolved.
3. Taste, and adjust sugar to your liking.
4. Serve in chilled cocktail glass.

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