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Articles by Alpaca World Magazine:

Pisco Sour

Rachel Hebditch



Pisco Sour is the most important cocktail for the Peruvians and Chileans and a source of some irritation as both countries claim it as their own. If you want to get a rise out of a Peruvian, try telling them that Pisco is definitely Chilean ? then duck.
Both countries have a National Pisco Day with Peru?s being staged in February and Chile?s in May.

John Gaye, ex-Army and a British Alpaca Society board member, who told me that HIS tank was always fully equipped with ice, served excellent Pisco at a Wessex auction several years ago. I think there was cottage pie as well but I missed that and came away with five alpacas, blame it on the Pisco.

Pisco is a regional brandy commonly made from Quebranta or Muscat grapes. The cocktail is a bit like a whisky sour and is made with cane sugar, egg white, lemon and a dash of Angostura bitters.

It is thought that the Spanish brought grapes to South America and that the first vineyard was planted in 1551. Irrigation systems and guano collected from the islands off the coast of Pisco ensured that the vineyards thrived and expanded. The accountant Lopez de Caravantes states that 20,000 arrobas of wine were produced in 1572, equivalent to 230,000 litres, enough to fulfil local demand and export.

Now the Peruvians claim the name Pisco as theirs because firstly it is a Quechua word for bird and secondly on the coast there is a valley where the Piskos used to live. These people were potters who made cone shaped pots in which they prepared ?chicha? and other alcoholic drinks that came to be known as pisco. They also believe that the Chile ?stole? pisco during the War of the Pacific in the late 1800?s. Peru was defeated and lost land in the Tarapaca area where Peruvian pisco production was important.

The Pisco War hotted up in recent years when the Peruvian Embassy issued a Defence of the Peruvian Denomination of Origin ?Pisco?. The Chileans responded with a spirited riposte asserting their rights to produce and enjoy Pisco as a Chilean drink and began a massive campaign promoting it as a traditional drink. The Peruvian Pisco industry responded in outrage citing Pisco as A Peruvian Tradition with the blessing of the Instituto de Defensa de la Competencia y la Propiedad Intelectual del Peru.

Gosh, this war is best contemplated with a ?catedral? that?s a large one to you and me, of Pisco Sour. Even the origin of the cocktail is a contentious. In Chile it is attributed to the English steward of a sailing ship Sunshine. Elliot Stubb opened a bar in Iquique in 1872, then in Peru, and came up with the Pisco Sour, dubbing it ?sour? because of the addition of the limon de Pica, a variety of lime. In 1883 Iquique became a Chilean city. In Peru the cocktail was invented by an American expat Victor V. ?Gringo? Morris at the Morris Bar in Lima. The grand hotels in Lima like the Hotel Bolivar and The Maury started serving them and an international crowd that included Orson Welles, John Wayne and Ava Gardner drank them?possibly to excess as Ava Gardner is said to have danced on the bar after a large one.

There are four different types of pisco made in the Ica Valley in Peru and the Elqui Valley in Chile. Pisco Puro is made from the non-aromatic black Quebranta grape and 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 Aromatico 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 that has not been allowed to ferment completely and therefore still has some sugar content. It has a sophisticated velvety palate and texture.

If you need a drink after reading about this little ?war? or it reminds you of other South American camelid conflicts closer to home, get the cocktail shaker out.

The ingredients: 2fl oz (8 parts) Pisco, 1fl oz (4 parts) Lime juice, 3 to 4fl oz (3 parts) Simple syrup, 1 Egg white, 1 dash Bitters. You add ice but it must not melt, so shake hard, serve without ice, strain into a glass and put the dash of bitters on top of the pisco foam.

Cheers