A Pisco Sour is a cocktail typical of South American cuisine.[A] The drink’s name comes from pisco, which is its base liquor, and the cocktail term sour, in reference to sour citrus juice and sweetener components. The Peruvian Pisco Sour uses Peruvian pisco as the base liquor and adds Key lime (or lemon) juice, syrup, ice, egg white, and Angostura bitters. The Chilean version is similar, but uses Chilean pisco and Pica lime, and excludes the bitters and egg white. Other variants of the cocktail include those created with fruits like pineapple or plants such as coca leaves.
The Peruvian and Chilean versions of the Pisco Sour are prepared differently. The Peruvian Pisco Sour cocktail is made by mixing Peruvian pisco with Key lime juice, simple syrup, egg white, Angostura bitters (for garnish), and ice cubes.
Ingredients in the Pisco Sour Cocktail
• 2 oz Pisco (Barsol Quebranta)
• 1 oz Fresh lime juice
• .5 oz Simple syrup (one part sugar, one part water)
• 1 Fresh egg white
Garnish: Lime wheel and Angostura Bitters
Glass: Highball or flute
How to make the Pisco Sour Cocktail
Add all the ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a highball glass or Champagne flute. Garnish with a lime wheel and 3 gentle drops of Angostura Bitters, which will settle in the foam of the cocktail. Using a straw, swirl the bitters into a simple design.
Pisco is a colorless or yellowish-to-amber colored brandy (a spirit produced by distilling wine) produced in winemaking regions of Chile and Peru. Pisco was developed by Spanish settlers in the 16th century out of the need to concentrate alcohol volume in order to transport it to remote locations. Although, unlike the Spanish orujo, a pomace brandy (a brandy made of distilled pomace), Pisco is made out of grape wine. In 2013, the annual production reached 100 million liters in Chile and 7,2 million liters in Peru.
Four levels of pisco were thus designated:
• Puro (Pure), made from a single variety of grape, mostly Quebranta, although Mollar or Common Black can be used; however, no blending between varieties is accepted (“pure” pisco should contain only one variety of grape).
• Aromáticas (Aromatic), made from Muscat or Muscat-derived grape varieties, and also from Albilla, Italia and Torontel grape varieties; once again, the pisco should only contain one variety of grape in any production lot.
• Mosto Verde (Green Must), distilled from partially fermented must, this must be distilled before the fermentation process has completely transformed sugars into alcohol.
• Acholado (Multivarietal), blended from the must of several varieties of grape.
The order is not established based on quality; it is simply listed in this way in Peruvian regulation publications.
Some other specific restrictions of note are:
• Aging: Pisco must be aged for a minimum of three months in vessels of “glass, stainless steel or any other material which does not alter its physical, chemical or organic properties”.
• Additives: No additives of any kind may be added to the pisco that could alter its flavor, odor, appearance or alcoholic proof.
Pure pisco is a very viscous liquid, slightly more so than vodka and comparable to Sambuca. It has an odor which is vaguely reminiscent of reeds. Its flavor is very smooth and almost non-alcoholic, which can be very deceptive, with the result that many first-time drinkers often drink to excess and can quickly become inebriated without noticing. Some people consider it “heresy” to mix pure pisco with anything else, and it is generally accepted that it should be drunk alone, even to the exclusion of ice.
Aromatic is a variety currently made of Italy and Muscat grapes in Peru and frequently rests in big clay receptacles called botijas. According to Peruvian specifications, Chilean pisco cannot be classified as aromatic despite the restriction of ‘no additives’ is obeyed, because Chilean pisco is aged in oak barrels and it is frequently made of a mix of more than four types of grapes that remain after the wine elaboration which is the main purpose of the Chilean spirits industry.
Green Must is generally seen in high income environments. Its grape taste is very strong, as is its fruity perfume.
I love Pisco so of course I ordered the Maracuya Sour – Pisco Quebranta, Fresh Passion fruit puree, Simple syrup, Egg white. It was so good!
Is pisco a brandy? A grappa?
”The technical definition of a brandy implies aging in wood. You can tell because all brandies are caramel-colored. However, it is true that both pisco and brandy are made from grapes. Pisco is a clear spirit that, at first impression, looks like a grappa. But it isn’t. Grappa is made from pomace, what’s leftover after wine is made: the stems, the skin, the seeds, et cetera. Most companies that produce wine will take the leftovers and they will re-hydrate, re-ferment, and distill. That’s grappa, as it’s known in Italy.
”What Portón does is crush the grapes, macerate, ferment, turn it into wine, and then take that to the still.”
Pisco sounds a lot like “aguardiente”, the all-pervasive fire water that’s drunk throughout the Mediterranean part of Europe (the Italians and Greeks have their own names for it, but it’s basically the same stuff)—even cachaça is very similar. Do you think either of these would make an acceptable substitute for Pisco? Try it and let us know!
You should try whisking the egg whites for a few minutes before adding them to the drink; this should give the drink a very rich topping (make sure that there’s NO yellow in the white, though—the yellow prevents the whites from foaming properly).
I have never tried aguardiente but I imagine any decent grape brandy would make a reasonable drink using the Pisco Sour recipe. It’s a classic sour, so really you can use any base spirit you like – just adjust the ratios to taste. Thanks for the egg white tips – I was careful to keep the yellow away, but will try whisking the white next time.
• 2 shots Pisco
• 1 shot lemon juice*
• ½ shot sugar syrup
• 1 egg white
• Shake all ingredients hard with ice for long enough to ensure the egg white is well mixed. Strain in to a cocktail glass and add a few dashes of Angostura Aromatic bitters to the frothy top of the drink.
• * You can also use limes for an equally pleasing drink – try both and see which you prefer.
The egg provides an amazing foamy head to the drink, which allows you to dash the bitters on the top. As well as looking good, this allows the wonderful aroma of Angostura to be the first taste that greats you as you bring the glass to your mouth.
I’ve only mixed up a few Pisco Sours so far, but I’ve yet to produce the large white head I’ve seen in some photos of the Pisco Sour. I’ve tried shaking the egg before adding the other ingredients, I’ve tried shaking it for ages and ages, but I still only get a small amount of froth. Any tips for getting the perfect Pisco Sour?
For a good Pisco Sour, consider using the liquid egg whites available at most grocery stores and shake with regular ice cubes (versus crushed ice) for at least ten seconds. The liquid eggs keep for a long time and are very convenient.
I use a recipe based on Toby Maloney’s (The Violet Hour, Chicago), and I think it’s one of the tastiest drinks I’ve made. The orange flower water is what makes the difference.
2 oz. Pisco
1 oz. Simply Syrup (50:50)
1 oz. Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
5 drops Fee Brothers Orange Bitters
2 drops Orange Flower Water
1 Egg White
1. Add first five ingredients to shaker.
2. Shake vigorously without ice to froth.
3. Add ice and shake very hard for 30 seconds.
4. Strain into cocktail glass.
5. Add a few drops of Angostura to the froth.
6. Make design with toothpick and serve.
• 4-5 ice cubes
• 3 oz of vodka
• 1 oz of simple syrup
• An egg white
• 1 1/2 oz of lemon juice
• And a dash of Angostura Bitters
Toss your ice, vodka, syrup, and lemon juice into a cocktail shaker. To separate the yolk from the white, carefully crack your egg into two halves, and proceed to swap the yolk from one half of the egg shell into the other over a bowl. As you do so, the white will pour into the shaker, and you will be left with one egg yolk. If you break the yolk, simply scramble the whole mixture with some cheese and onions and start over; you do not want any yolk in your drink. Add your egg white, and shake until a frost forms on the side of your shaker. Pour into your glass, and add a few drops of bitters.