Updated: Dec 28, 2020
During the Xmas holiday season, we enjoyed a Peruvian / Chilean cocktail – Pisco Sour. Pisco is a brandy or distilled wine that can have from 30-60% alcohol. It is very strong on its own and is the national drink of both Peru and Chile – two sister countries with an unfortunate history of troubled border disputes. I love both countries and the entire region.
The recipe is as follows (for a typical tall, thin white wine or champagne flute):
3 parts Pisco (ideally around 40% alcohol)
1 parts fresh, squeezed lemon juice (lime shows up on many searches, but in this case, lemon is much better)
One egg white per portion (this is very important)
Crushed ice (if you are making four drinks, you would use about half a tray of ice – more for stronger Pisco)
Dissolved sugar (this is according to taste, but a good volume – perhaps 250 grams / 8.5 ounces in 1/2 a cup of water)
This is all blended together and stir when pouring so there is a nice white head on the glass. The top of the drink should be topped with a few drops of Angostura Bitters.
You may choose to sugar the rim of the glass.
The Peruvian origins of Pisco
I am really not exaggerating when I suggest both Peru and Chile take their Pisco very seriously. The reality seems to suggest, Pisco did originate in Peru and the distilling process was imported to Chile.
As the two pacific countries have evolved and their culinary cultures have adapted to tastes, climate, and environment, each has specialized in a distinct manner. With its perfect grape-growing climate in the valleys south of Santiago, Chile has become a major – rather industrial – wine producing country.
Along with its world-class wine production, Chilean Pisco has also developed and gained notoriety.
Peru as a whole has much less of a wine culture and wine that is produced can be sickly sweet. Imported wine is expensive. Of course, a much more significant percentage of Peru’s population lives at high altitude, where alcohol consumption is much lower.
The Pisco distilation process
Peruvian cuisine, on the other hand, has rightly taken its place as one of the world’s great kitchens! People travel from countries far and wide to eat in Peru. From ceviche to outstanding Chinese fusion (chifa), Peru is genuinely a culinary destination – yet people are almost more likely to drink Inca Cola (a sickeningly sweet, caffeinated soda) rather than a good wine with a fantastic meal.
I first encountered Pisco & Pisco Sour when working in Chile and specifically at a conference where I erroneously thought it was either a non-alcoholic or light alcohol cocktail, as the drinks were being handed out before lunch. The next day I experienced my first Chilean hangover.
Both Peru and Chile enjoy good, abundant seafood. Peruvian salaries are much lower than wages in Chile, yet food is affordable in both countries. Beer, wine, and Pisco are far less expensive in Chile where rates of consumption are much, much higher.
Peruvians, as a whole, remain trim and fit (altitude helps greatly with this), whereas Chilean – South America’s economic success story – is beginning to suffer from alarming rates of obesity. Abundance has its challenges….
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