When the Spanish brought grape vines to South America, it's unlikely they knew that these same grapes would someday be the life force in the famous Pisco Sour, made with a potent grape brandy called aptly enough pisco. Both Chile and Peru claim to have created the spirit, but for today, we're going with Peru, since our cocktail of the week comes directly from chef Ricardo Zarate's collection of restaurants, Paiche, Mo-Chica, and Picca. Why? Because National Pisco Day is Saturday, Feb. 1. That's tomorrow, if you got your dates wrong and inadvertently drank too many of them last night.
The Pisco Sour is a deceptively simple combination of pisco, lemon juice and some form of sugar. After one drink, a soft smile will drift across your face. After two, well let's be honest, three or four, you may be grinning like the village idiot and most likely acting like him too. Such is the mystical power of pisco.
The Pisco Sour is, as the name suggests, a sour, but what a sour it is. The sour category encompasses a broad group of drinks – the Margarita, the Daiquiri are both sours – whose defining feature is the regal triumvirate of spirit, citrus and sugar. The Pisco Sour is a classic example, but in this distinct cocktail, egg white often comes into play, acting as a binder for the flavors and making the drink look, well, mighty pretty.
For Zarate, the Pisco Sour is all about sharing and National Pisco Day is all the excuse he needs to let the grape brandy flow.
“It's exciting to be able to introduce people to my country through its popular food and drinks,” Zarate says. “The Pisco Sour is a national drink in Peru and very unique in how it creates the perfect marriage between the Pisco grape brandy and the lime. The egg white foam on top is smooth and delicate. Every layer is so wonderful and reminds me of home.”
On Saturday, Zarate's restaurants are all offering specials on the drink. At Mo-Chica, you can get two Pisco Sours for the price of one, starting at 5:30 p.m. At Paiche and Picca, you can enjoy a Pisco Sour on Saturday and get a voucher for a free Pisco Sour next time you visit. Picca is also serving their sours with a special pairing, either Anticucho Corazon or Ceviche Mixto.
Of course promotions only matter when there's something worth promoting – and the Pisco Sour is a drink worthy of fanfare. The Zarate versions add a few extra flourishes. Lime juice gets equal play with the standard lemon juice; cane syrup replaces the usual sugar or simple syrup, adding a deeper, more complex flavor.
Egg white and bitters, the oft-debated ingredients, round out the mix, which includes a unique touch in the form of a cinnamon tincture. As Paiche's Deysi Alvarez explains, “We make the tincture out of cinnamon oil, which is very strong, so we add it to the angostura bitters. Just a couple drops gives it that nice cinnamon flavor, which relieves that raw egg smell and essence you get when you use egg whites in a cocktail.”
From: Julian Cox for Picca Restaurant
½ oz simple (cane sugar) syrup
3/8 oz lemon juice
3/8 oz lime juice
¾ oz pisco
½ oz egg white (half egg)
Dash of Angostura
Dash of cinnamon tincture
1. Prepare the simple syrup with equal parts of evaporated cane sugar and room-temperature water and set aside.
2. In a shaker, add the lemon juice, lime juice, pisco and simple syrup. Whip all the ingredients, without ice.
3. Add the egg white and shake long and hard, then empty the contents into a coupe glass.
4. Combine angostura bitters and cinnamon tincture, then sprinkle a few drops on top.
Lesley blogs at 12 Bottle Bar, tweets at @12BottleBar and is the author of the book “Gin: A Global History.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.