Published on February 6th, 2013 | by Dipsology1
Spirit Spotlight: Macchu Pisco
I was introduced to Macchu Pisco, a family-owned brand from Peru, last September by Meaghan Dorman of Raines Law Room. Meaghan wanted to use it in her Andean Dusk cocktail for our launch party.
furious mild internet stalking I connected with Melanie da Trindade-Asher, co-founder of the company and fellow female entrepreneur. The Andean Dusk, which uses Macchu Pisco’s La Diablada blend, was a huge hit at the party and I became a big fan. So back in November – on a cold, snowy evening – I sat down with Melanie’s sister and partner in crime, Lizzie, to talk about their company and products.
We met, fittingly, in the library bar of the NoMad and talked over Pisco Sours and Pan Americanos – one of head mixologist & Macchu Pisco-fan Leo Robitschek’s creations that includes Pisco, Dolin’s Dry Vermouth & Cocchi Americano.
“Americans know the Russians have vodka, the French have champagne – so why shouldn’t they know Peruvians have Pisco?”
This was the thought that sparked Melanie, a native Peruvian who had moved to the US at 10 years old and attended Harvard Business School, to start Macchu Pisco. She is now the master distiller & blender for the brand’s three expressions (though we hear she has help from her 97-year old grandmother, who lives in Peru):
- Macchu Pisco, a single grape pisco, or “puro”, made with non-aromatic Quebranta grapes. This is the pisco you want for your Pisco Sour.
- La Diablada, a blended “acholado” pisco made with Quebranta, Moscatel & Italia grapes for a more aromatic product. La Diablada is used often in cocktails, like the two we mentioned above.
- Ñusta, a Mosto Verde pisco made with aromatic grape varietals and bottled in ceramic vessels. If you can get your hands on this, you probably shouldn’t do anything except sip it plain.
Macchu Pisco’s production is based in the Ica Valley in Peru, where they work with women-owned co-ops to source their grapes. The grapes are pressed in the traditional way – that is, manually, by foot (we totally want an invite to that harvest party!) – then fermented and distilled in copper pot stills. Unlike many other spirits, no water or preservatives are added to the pisco – what comes off the still is what goes into bottle, after aging for 9 months to a year and a half.
Ok, but what is Pisco?
Pisco is a clear, grape-based distilled spirit, that is like a grape brandy. Lizzie explained it as sitting between gin – flavored with botanicals – and vodka – which has no flavor at all. 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.
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, like Macchu Pisco, which come in at about 40%.
Where to drink it:
We’re making it easy for you and hosting a Pisco Party with Macchu Pisco on February 13th, where you’ll be able to sample two of products, plus cocktails & Peruvian appetizers at Raymi. Full details & tickets are available here.
Can’t make it on the 13th? In that case, you can get a good Pisco Sour at any of our Classic Cocktail bars, in addition to the Pan Americano at the NoMad and Raines Law Room’s Andean Dusk. Interested in picking up a bottle for yourself? Astor’s got you covered.