Friday, February 5, 2010

Pucker up . . . It's Pisco Sour Day!

Very few cocktails are as exquisite as Pisco Sour.  It exudes a particular aroma, fragrance and a powerful presence.  Yes . . . Pisco Sour is this and much more.  It also happens to be Peru's flagship drink.  And, as a well-deserved homage, the Peruvian Government (via its Ministry of Production through Supreme Decree Nº 161-2004-Produce) decided  to institute "Pisco Sour Day" on the first Saturday of February since 2004.  What is "Pisco Sour"?—you'll ask—A Pisco Sour is a cocktail containing Pisco (Peruvian grape brandy), lime juice, egg whites, "jarabe de goma" (similar to simple syrup), and regional bitters (like Amargo bitters, though Angostura bitters work if regional bitters are unavailable).

The origins of the drink can be traced back to the era of the Viceroyalty of Peru in the eighteenth century when Pisco used to be mixed with lime in bars adjacent to the bullring in downtown Lima, the country's capital city.  But the first mention of Pisco Sour itself dates back to 1924 on a flyer promoting "Bar Morris" in Lima, which highlighted the cocktail as one of its specialties.
It was offered as a novel drink inspired by its counterpart, whisky sour, and was believed to have been first prepared by three Peruvian bartenders. On the other hand, in Jose Antonio Schiaffino's book "The origin of Pisco Sour" it is claimed the inventor of the recipe was Californian Victor V. Morris, the owner of Bar Morris.  Now, if you're a tourist heading to Lima, interested in sampling the cocktail in the very premises where it was first served, you'll be a little bit disappointed:  the bar that first opened its doors in 1915 has been closed since 1933.

But don't get disheartened that soon.  Following the pioneering work that took place at Bar Morris, many of the more elegant hotels in Lima of that era started to imitate the drink, including "Hotel Maury" and the exclusive "Hotel Bolivar" on Plaza San Martin, which is still one of the most famous places in Lima to sip on a Pisco sour.  It is said that the legendary American writer Ernest Hemingway holds the record for the most Pisco Sours consumed in one sitting there.

Of course, "Pisco Sour" wouldn't exist in the first place if it weren't for Pisco.  In Peru, most types of Pisco belong to one of the four following categories: Pure, Aromatic, Green Must, and Acholado. Pure Pisco is made from a single grape variety, usually the traditional Quebranta grape. Aromatic Pisco is made from Muscat, or similar strains of grape, such as Torontel and Italia, which are closely related to Muscat. Production of Green Must Pisco incorporates the use of partially fermented must. Acholado Pisco, also known as Half-breed Pisco, is Pisco that is blended from more than one grape varietal.

I've posted here a two-part video “Pisco, Cultural Heritage of Peru” that walks you through the origins of Pisco.

 And now, the famous recipe . . .

3 Parts (3 oz.) Pisco
1 Part (1 oz.) Fresh Lime Juice*
1 Part (1 oz.) "Jarabe de Goma"**
1 Egg White (or 1 tablespoon of pasteurized egg whites, which are available in most supermarkets)
1 Drop of Angostura Bitters

In shaker with 5 large ice cubes (not crushed ice), combine liquids adding egg whites last. Shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds. Strain into six ounce rocks glass (be careful not allow any ice to pour into the cocktail.

Ice is the enemy of a great Pisco Sour … it will melt and dilute the cocktail. Garnish with one drop Angostura Bitters (the one drop of bitters is for garnish only, do not stir into the Pisco Sour or you will affect the taste).

*To best match the taste of Peruvian limes (which are not available today in the U.S.) use limes from Mexico or Florida key limes when possible. Or you can use ½ lemon juice, and ½ Persian lime juice to replicate the taste of Peruvian lime juice.
** Superfine granulated sugar or simple syrup can be substituted for the "jarabe de goma" in any of these cocktails. If using sugar, use a little less than if using simple syrup.

(Makes approximately 6-8 servings)
Pour 1 and ½ cup of Pisco into a blender, followed by ½ cup lime juice (see note above regarding best ways to replicate Peruvian lime juice), and ¼ cup of "jarabe de goma" (or super fine sugar or simple syrup). Blend for 30 seconds until sugar is dissolved. Add 6-8 large ice cubes (do not use crushed ice) and add 2 egg whites (you can purchase pasteurized egg whites in a carton at most supermarkets…add about 2 tablespoons of pasteurized egg whites rather than fresh egg whites). Then blend for about 30 seconds. Pour into six ounce rocks’ glass. Allow to sit for 20 seconds until the frothy head forms on top of the Pisco Sour. Drop just one drop of angostura bitters on the center of foam. If made properly the one drop of bitters will form a bull’s eye in the middle of the foam. Do not stir the bitters into the cocktail as it will affect the taste, the drop of bitters is just for decoration.


1 comment:

Stephanie said...

I was searching for Pisco Sour recipes and came across your blog. Do you have any knowledge as to why we can't get Peruvian limes in the states? I'd really like to find some.