Pisco is Peru. Pisco was born along the shores of the Pacific Ocean, in the green oases of Peru’s central and southern coastal band where the right temperatures of protective sunshine combine with millenary soil to create an ideal climate that nurtures the many types of grapes that give pisco its unique Denomination of Origin characteristics.
Pisco-making in Peru has deep cultural roots, dating all the way back to the 16th century. Pisco is the name of the town where the first seeds were planted to raise the grapes used in pisco-making. Pisco is also a word that reminds us of the great diversity of birds in south Peru. The word is derived from pisku, the term for bird in the Quechua language.
Pisco is made from eight different grape varieties classified depending on their scent. Amongst the most perfumed are Italia, Torontel, Albilla and Moscatel, while non-aromatic types include Quebranta, Mollar, Negra Criolla and Uvina. Three different types of pisco, called Pure, Mixed and Green Must, are made by combining different grape varieties and processes.
To better appreciate pisco’s virtues, we must choose the right glass — the pisco glass. Shaped like a tulip, the pisco glass allows one to enjoy the spirit’s perfume and then, when drinking it, embark on a trip of many sensations. Fill the glass one-third full to better appreciate pisco’s shine, clarity and purity.
Pisco can be enjoyed pure, in cocktails or paired with savory or sweet plates as an ingredient in various preparations. An outstanding digestive supplement, pisco cocktails make for a terrific aperitif while at the end of any meal. It is a superbly versatile cocktail ingredient. Four classical pisco cocktails are Capitán, Chilcano, Pisco Punch and Pisco Sour.
A Peruvian classic, Capitán goes back to the 1920s when after their night rounds, Army officers in the Puno Highlands ordered at the local bar their favorite cocktail, a mix of pisco and vermouth. As time went by, the recipe crossed the Andes Mountains and spread across Peru where it is now best enjoyed from a martini glass.
Born in San Francisco, United States, in the 1850s, at the time of the Gold Rush, Pisco Punch is a Peruvian pisco, pineapple juice, lime juice, sugar and syrup cocktail whose insuperable taste was born from the relationship between the two countries.
A perfect mix of tart lime juice, foamy egg white, sweet syrup and pisco’s character, a combination of ingredients that make pisco sour a unique cocktail.
A typical recipe from northern Peru is a lime juice seasoned fish soup called chilcano that eventually gave its name to an easy-to-mix drink of pisco, ginger ale, ice cubes and a few drops of lime juice. Initially a favorite in the bars and convenience shops of Italian immigrants, it became later an ever present guest in the cocktail lists of Peru’s most exclusive restaurants.
A Classic Chilcano is a refreshing, semi-dry aperitif. Serve in 11-ounce highball glass.
- 2 oz. pure Quebranta pisco
- 3 drops bitter
- 1/2 oz. lime juice
- 5 ice cubes
- 5 oz. iced ginger ale
- 1 slice lime
Mix pisco, bitter, lime juice, lime slice, ice cubes and ginger ale in highball glass with a stirrer.
Recipe by Peruvian bartender Roberto Meléndez.