Published on February 6th, 2013 | by Dipsology0
February is Pisco Sour Month!
We know, you thought it was Black History Month – but in a happy turn of events, it is also a time to celebrate the national drink of Peru! The first Saturday in February is National Pisco Sour day in the South American country, but we figured it was more fun to celebrate for a whole month.
We’re also making it easy for you by throwing our own Pisco Party next week – you can check out those details and get tickets here.
So what is a Pisco Sour?
The Pisco Sour is said to have originated in Lima, Peru in the early 1920’s. An American bartender – Victor Morris – invented it as a twist on the then-popular Whiskey Sour, substituting local Pisco for the brown stuff. The Milk & Honey app recipe calls for 2 oz Pisco, 3/4 oz Lemon/Lime juice combined, 3/4 oz simple syrup and one egg white. You combine the ingredients in a mixing tin, shake without ice (to emulsify the egg white), then add ice, shake again, and strain into a cocktail glass. It is usually topped with a dash of Angostura bitters as well.
Fun Pisco Facts
Pisco is a clear, grape-based distilled spirit, that is like a grape brandy. My friend Lizzie of Macchu Pisco explained it as sitting between gin – flavored with botanicals – and vodka – which has no flavor at all. Some people liken it to grappa, but in my opinion pisco is much softer and smoother than grappa, though clearly that would depend a lot on the brand & type you are drinking. Both Peru and Chile claim pisco and the Pisco Sour as their own, and there is a fierce rivalry over it. Both are made from grapes, but there are differences in how they are distilled and blended.
Pisco, like wine, can be made from a single grape varietal or can be blended. In Peru, single varietal pisco is called “puro”, or “pure”, and the most common single grape is called Quebranta. Blends are called “Acholado” and are generally sweeter and more aromatic.
In Peru, pisco can only be made with fresh grape must – that is, a very young wine – which is then distilled and into the resulting spirit. Traditionally this is done in copper pot stills, as Macchu Pisco does. Additionally, no water or anything else that could affect the flavor or clarity of the pisco may be added/done.
In Chile, the base material for pisco does not have to be fresh grapes – you could for example use an older wine. This means producers are allowed to add water and age the pisco in oak barrels in order to dilute and soften the edge of this product. That’s why one ends up with Chilean piscos as low as 30% alc/vol, versus Peruvian ones which come in at about 40%.
Where to drink Pisco in NYC
Also: In our collection of Classic Cocktail bars you can feel confident ordering a Pisco Sour. There are also a few bars and restaurants that specialize in the spirit including:
Amaru Pisco Bar (Jackson Heights, Queens) owned by the same team as Pio Pio, has an impressive array of Piscos available to sip or in cocktails. (Official website.)
And finally, here are a few non-Pisco Sour Pisco Cocktails we really like around town:
The Pan Americano at NoMad by Leo Robitschek with La Diablada, Dolin’s Dry Vermouth & Cocchi Americano. Served on the rock with a lemon twist, it’s a great aperitif and drinks similar to a white negroni (which would be with gin instead of Pisco).
Andean Dusk at Raines Law Room by Meaghan Dorman with La Diablada, Rose Champagne, lemon juice, simple, & muddled red grape. She served this cocktail at our launch party in September – and you can read more about it here.