Pisco sours are an essential experience in Peru. No culinary trip would be complete without imbibing at least a gallon of the stuff (so I hear) in the land that learned how to distill the grape. Chile also produces pisco. Unlike cognac that is aged at least two years in oak barrels, Peruvian pisco must be aged in neutral containers, such as stainless steel, so as not to pick up flavors or colors and therefore makes it a terrific cocktail ingredient. The brandy drunk neat tastes of the tropics and warm spices and may or may not be aromatic, depending on the source grape.
I did my part in sampling sours, including a stunning one made with maracuya, a fruit from the passionfruit family, instead of lime. There were also outstanding pisco cocktails served at the Pisco Museum in Arequipa (also one in Cusco). Our bartender spent quite a bit of time explaining to my wife and me the differences between pisco styles. Even our lodge host in Majes Colca Canyon, who makes his own pisco in a distillery that he fashioned from scratch, made my wife and me a sour that he served with dinner. In short, pisco sour might be considered the national cocktail.
But, it wasn’t until I got to Lima that I, as well as others who took the Lima Gourmet Company food tour (and one that I highly recommend), was shown how to make the perfect pisco sour at the Embarcadero 41 Fusion Restaurant, where I also learned how to make ceviché. Making the ‘perfect’ anything is obviously a matter of taste and so I took instruction with that in mind. The twist that the bartender demonstrated was to only pour a portion of the sour into a glass, then to swirl the shaker to bloom the foam before pouring the rest. She also suggested using a non-aromatic pisco, such as Quebranta.
3 oz. Quebranta pisco
1 oz. simple syrup
1 oz. lime juice
1 egg white
1 cup ice cubes
Place all ingredients except bitters in a shaker and shake vigorously for at least 10 seconds. Using a strainer, pour contents into two white wine glasses until about two-thirds full. Swirl the shaker for a few seconds, then pour the remaining mixture carefully from a about a foot (3o cm) above each glass waterfall-style. Shake a few drops of bitters on top. Serve.
Other popular pisco drinks are Chilcana and Capitan. Like I said, you could drink a gallon of the stuff. I almost made it.