pisco

Made with raw eggs, fresh lime juice and pisco or grape brandy, the national drink of Peru packs quite the punch when done correctly. With a foamy top, sweet-sour flavors and high alcohol content, this cocktail works best when enjoyed before a meal. Drink two and you might feel like you’re riding a one-legged llama up Machu Picchu.

The pisco sour was invented in the 1920s by an American bartender working in a saloon in Lima, the capital of Peru. Today you’ll be hard pressed to find a bar or restaurant in the country that doesn’t serve the drink. Also produced in (and claimed by) Chile, pisco is perhaps the most famous South American spirit that there is.

Grape brandy is a liquor created from the distillation of fermented grapes, like wine. However don’t confuse wine and brandy just because they’re both made from grapes. Brandy is much stronger, coming in at 35-60% alcohol by volume (wine is usually 10-14%). Featuring the unique flavors of the Peruvian terroir, pisco is a full-bodied, fiery liquor that is balanced well by the stout citrus flavors and creamy egg white.

You’ll find over 50 brands of pisco at a big supermarket in Lima, but it can be difficult to find in the States. Search for brands like Macchu Pisco, Montesierpe and BarSol. You can buy organic grape brandy through Catoctin Creek in Virginia, although authentic Peruvian pisco will taste a bit “grapier”. As Peruvian cuisine continues to grow in popularity throughout the world, look for this liquor to become more available at stores, bars and restaurants.

Queasy about raw eggs? Raw egg white is actually a popular cocktail component in destinations outside of America. Frothy and light, shaken egg whites contribute a creamy, rich consistency to cocktails including eggnog, clover clubs, Ramos fizz and the flip. The alcohol will kill most bacteria present in the raw egg. However, if you have a compromised immune system, you might want to skip this recipe or simply leave the raw egg out.

This recipe makes two small cocktails or one large – but tread very lightly if you choose the large version. Pisco sours can be surprisingly strong thanks to the high alcohol content of brandy.

Makes 2 small (4-ounce) cocktails

Ingredients

3 ounces pisco (or grape brandy)
1 ounce lime juice (key limes work best)
1 ounce simple syrup
1 egg white
Angostura bitters
Ice cubes

Directions

1. In a cocktail shaker, add together the pisco, lime juice, simple syrup and egg white.

2. Fill your shaker to the top with ice, and shake vigorously for the foamiest results!

3. Strain into a wine glass, martini glass or old-fashioned glass.

4. Sprinkle a dash of the Angostura bitters on top of the foam.

5. Serve immediately and enjoy! Pairs well with fried potatoes or the Peruvian potato dish papas a la Huancaina.

Variations

Use lemon juice instead of lime juice if you can’t find key limes.

You can also top the foam with a dash of ground nutmeg if you don’t like bitters.

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Image: Capienzza