WHERE WE’RE DRINKING NOW: A Guide to Peruvian Pisco [Dipsology Feature]

Welcome to Where We’re Drinking Now, a feature brought to you by Dipsology, your guide to great cocktail drinking in NYC.

The first Saturday of February is National Pisco Sour day in Peru.  But because everything is bigger in the US, and more party is always better, we’re celebrating for the entire month (and especially on February 13th at our super fabulous #PiscoParty.)

Some of you may love Pisco Sours, some of you may have no clue what it is, and others maybe think they had one once, but don’t really remember much about it.  This post is for all of you!

What is Pisco?

Let’s start with the basics: Pisco is a clear, grape-based distilled spirit, that is like a grape brandy. Like wine, it can be made from a single grape varietal or can be blended.  Both Peru and Chile claim pisco and the Pisco Sour as their own, and there is a fierce rivalry over it, and differences in how each country distills and blends their product.

In Peru, pisco can only be made with fresh grape must – that is, a very young wine – which is then distilled.  Traditionally this is done in copper pot stills.  Additionally, no water or anything else that could affect the flavor or clarity of the pisco may be added/done.  If you want to pick up a bottle, one of our favorite Peruvian Piscos is Macchu Pisco, a small family-owned brand that you can also sample at our event on the 13th  – see below on our tips for where to drink it around town.

In Chile, the base material for pisco does not have to be fresh grapes – you could for example use an older wine.  This means producers are allowed to add water and age the pisco in oak barrels in order to dilute and soften the edge of the liquor.

Ok, that’s cool. So, what is a Pisco Sour?

Pisco Sour @ Raymi Peruvian Kitchen

The Pisco Sour is said to have originated in Lima, Peru in the early 1920’s. An American bartender – Victor Morris – invented it as a twist on the then-popular Whiskey Sour, substituting local Pisco for the brown stuff. The Milk & Honey app recipe calls for 2 oz Pisco, 3/4 oz Lemon/Lime juice combined, 3/4 oz simple syrup and one egg white. You combine the ingredients in a mixing tin, shake without ice (to emulsify the egg white), then add ice, shake again, and strain into a cocktail glass. It is usually topped with a dash of Angostura bitters as well.

For me, egg white makes anything taste like a cloud.  The citrus makes this really bright & zesty, while the simple syrup evens out the acid & the edge of the liquor, so you appreciate the aromatics and grapi-ness of it.  A really nice light way to start or end an evening, but beware … they go down smooth!

Where to drink Pisco in NYC

At any of the places in Dipsology’s collection of Classic Cocktail bars, you can feel confident ordering a pisco cocktail. There are also a few bars and restaurants that specialize in the spirit including:

Raymi Peruvian Kitchen & Pisco Bar (Flatiron) where their cocktail menu is exclusively Pisco based and they make their own infusions. (Also the site of our February 13th Pisco Party!)

Amaru Pisco Bar (Jackson Heights, Queens) owned by the same team as Pio Pio, has an impressive array of Piscos available to sip or in cocktails. (Official website.)

Interested in picking up a bottle for yourself? Astor’s got you covered.

And finally, here are a few non-Pisco Sour Pisco Cocktails we really like around town:

The Pan Americano

The Pan Americano at NoMad by Leo Robitschek with La Diablada Pisco, Dolin’s Dry Vermouth & Cocchi Americano. Served on the rock with a lemon twist, it’s a great aperitif and drinks similar to a white negroni (which would be with gin instead of Pisco).

Andean Dusk at Raines Law Room by Meaghan Dorman with La Diablada Pisco, Rose Champagne, lemon juice, simple, & muddled red grape. She served this cocktail at our launch party in September – and you can read more about it here.