As you walk through the colorful, bustling streets of Lima at night, you will hear dozens of waiters offering you free Pisco Sours if you dine at their restaurant. Talk about smart marketing tactics. The Pisco Sour is the renowned beverage of Peru and is considered one of the world’s great cocktails. It is so celebrated by Peruvians, that they created an official government holiday in 2003 for the cocktail – Día Nacional del Pisco Sour (The National Pisco Sour Day) – on the first Saturday of February.
The liquor base, Pisco, always contains an alcohol content between 38% and 48% after a law was passed forbidding the regulation or dilution of distilled Pisco with water. Caution is necessary when you first imbibe the smooth, icy taste of the Pisco Sour. Its powerful punch can subtly take effect. Even the famous Hollywood actress, Ava Gardner, fell victim to its strong impact during her visit to Peru and was seen dancing on the bar at the Hotel Bolivar after sipping on some Catedral Pisco Sours.
The history surrounding the creation of the Pisco Sour remains a controversial one. Chile and Peru both claim to be Pisco Sour’s birthplace. The Peruvian history is as follows: In 1553 Spanish Conquistadores imported grapes to make wine from the Canary Islands to Peru. The fermented unwanted grapes left over from wine production were then distilled to make the grape brandy-like liquor, Pisco.
Pisco production boomed in the 1940s. Over the years, due to increased grape variation, new forms of Pisco with an array of aromas and flavors were created. In 1916, an American, Victor Vaughen Morris, came to Lima for the mining trade and opened Morris’ Bar. In the early 1920s, the Pisco Sour made its appearance on Morris’ drink menu as an alternative to the Whiskey Sour and quickly rose in popularity. Peruvians take special pride in the beverage, naming it the “National Drink of Peru.” Ask a Chilean and they will tell you a different tale.
The classic Pisco Sour combination takes a quick 7 minutes. The result: a delightful masterpiece of rich, biting flavor complimented with cool, bodied foam that will leave you befuddled with refreshed sweet and sour filled tastebuds the whole evening. The ingredients include 3 parts pisco (i.e. 3 oz) to 1 part simple syrup (i.e. 1 oz) to 1 part lime juice (i.e. 1 oz) with egg whites (i.e. 1) and a sprinkle of Angostura bitters. Combine the Pisco, simple syrup, egg white, and lime juice into a cocktail shaker. Shake. Add ice to the top and repeat until the frost envelops the mixer. Strain the cocktail into an old-fashioned glass and sprinkle a dash of Angostura bitters on top. Serve immediately.
To find this glorious classic concoction in it’s most delicious form, I recommend going to the Grand Hotel Bolivar in Lima Centro (Jr de la Union 958, Plaza de San Martin), which is considered by some as the keeper of the original Morris Pisco Sour recipe. If you enter the small bar to the right of the hotel (El Bolivarcito), you can find halved prices for the same delectable double Pisco Sour called “La Catedral.” From this hotel and others, the Pisco Sour recipe spread and eventually made its way to various countries, including Spain, the United States, and even Korea. The cocktail world is forever changed.
Miranda MacKinnon is an American Sociologist and English Teacher from Boston, MA. She is interested in Global Health, International Development, and Education as well as exploring the great outdoors, learning languages, and travelling around the world. She is currently living in Lima.
CORRECTIONS: We would like to apologise for the following errors, which have since been corrected:
The first Pisco Sour was created in March 1904 (not 1553, as suggested in the newsletter sent out Friday, Oct. 25) and it was created by Victor Vaughen (not Vaughn) Morris.