Pisco is a 'brandy' distilled from specific grapes grown and is associated with two regions in particular in South America - the Ica Valley
in Peru and the Elqui Valley
Pisco was first produced in the Pisco province in Peru during the 1700s when the King of Spain banned wine and there is a
place in Peru named Pisco, but there are historical disputes between Peru and Chile over which country 'owns' the appellation.
Styles tend to differ between the two regions, the more aromatic style associated with Chile. Broadly speaking there are four styles:
There are 4 different types of pisco:
• Pisco Puro is made only from the non-aromatic, black Quebranta grape, a black grape brought to Peru from Spain. This variety is mainly used in mixed drinks as it is quite dry.
• Pisco Acholado is the result of two varieties of grapes usually the Italia and Quebranta grapes being blended. This variety is very popular due to its sweet odour and flavour and the immediate “kick", which can be felt after drinking.
• Pisco Aromático is made from either the Muscat , Italia, Moscatel or Torontel grapes. It has an intensely fruity aroma.
• Pisco Mosto Verde is the most expensive of all Piscos to produce. This variety is made from grape juice, which has not been allowed to ferment completely and therefore still has some sugar content. It has a sophisticated velvety palate and texture.
Pisco has a low level of impurities.The flavour is very smooth. Pisco can either be enjoyed straight or used in mixed drinks, one of the best known being the Pisco Sour, Peru’s national drink.
The first Pisco Sour is attributed to Elliot Stubb, an Englishman who in 1872 opened a bar in the port of Iquique in Peru. He used the 'limon de pica', a small lime grown in the area.
The Peruvian Bartenders Association gives the following official Pisco Sour recipe, for two people:
3oz of Pisco,
1oz sugar syrup,
1 albumen (white part of egg)
Place in a cocktail shaker with ice (ice must not melt), but serve without ice.
Variations on this abound, with the use of limes (ideally key limes) instead of lemons, and the addition of bitters, or even a sprinkling of cinnamon.
In the Chilean version, the egg whites are absent and the morer aromatic local Pisco is used.
Peru has a National 'Pisco Sour Day' which is celebrated on 3rd February each year.