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TIP OF THE DAY: Pisco From Peru

At the end of each of the past four years, food trend analysts have predicted that Peruvian food will be the next hot cuisine in the U.S.

But do you know what Peruvian cuisine is? Have you had their national cocktail, the Pisco Sour?

We’re about to introduce you to Pisco. But first, some favorite Peruvian foods:

  • Ceviche, raw seafood cured in citrus juice
  • Shrimp cioppino, a type of bouillabaisse
  • Deep fried mashed potatoes stuffed with ground meat, eggs and olives
  • Beef heart kabobs
  • Grilled chicken or roaster chicken, one of the most consumed foods in the country
  • Green salsa, made with cilantro
    Pisco Portón, an “ultrapremium” brand of Pisco. Photo courtesy PiscoPórton.

    Where Would We Be Without These Foods?

    Some of our favorite foods originated in Peru, including potatoes, tomatoes, peanuts and several varieties of beans, as did the fashionable superfood, quinoa. On the fruit side, prickly pear, cape gooseberry, dragon fruit, cherimoya and tamarillo are Peruvian natives. All of these foods were cultivated by the Incas.

    The History Of Pisco

    Back to Pisco: The spirit was developed by Spanish settlers in the 16th century as an alternative to orujo, a pomace brandy that was imported from Spain.

    Not only did they have to wait for the cargo ship to show up; but pomace is not hard to come by. It is distilled from what’s after from pressing wine grapes (what’s left are the grape skins and seeds). European estate owners typically gave this residue to the farm workers, to distill for their own enjoyment. The end product, depending on the country, is brandy, grappa and other firewater.



    A Pisco Sour. Don’t you wish you had one
    now? Photo courtesy Pisco Portón.


    In the late 1550s, the Spanish settlers began to plant quality wine grapes. Peruvian farmers did the same as their European counterparts: They distilled a clear liquid from the pressed wine residue given to them.

    Pisco was discovered by sailors in the 18th century, when it became part of the growing Peruvian export trade. It was easier to transport Pisco up the West Coast from Peru than to transport whiskey overland from the East Coast. Thus, Pisco made its way to San Francisco, where it was enjoyed during the Gold Rush (1848–1855) through 1920, when Prohibition put the cap on alcohol.

    There are many Pisco brands, including what has to be our favorite name, Macchu Pisco (get it)? Today, premium brands are distilled from the wine itself, not from the residue. The category’s ullta-premium brand is Pisco Portón, an elegant distillate with fruit aromas and flavors; we enjoyed drinking it neat.


  • Pisco Sour: the national cocktail of Peru, made with lime juice, cane syrup, egg wite and bitters.
  • Alga-Robbina: a syrup from the carob tree is the mixer.
  • Beatríz: Pisco, granadine, cream, crème de cacao and cinnamon.
  • Biblia: Pisco, Port, egg yolk, crème de cacao, Curaçao and cinnamon.
  • Canario: Pisco with orange juice.
  • El Capitán: Pisco and red vermouth.
  • Calentito: Pisco with hot tea and lemon.
  • Chilcano: Pisco with ginger ale, lime juice and bitters.
  • Melate: Pisco with sweet wine.
  • Pisco Punch: Pisco with pineapple juice, lime juice and sugar.

    Ingredients For One Drink

  • 1½ ounces Pisco Portón
  • ½ ounce fresh lime juice
  • ½ ounce simple syrup
  • ¼ ounce egg white
  • 1 dash bitters

    1. Combine first four ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake.

    2. Strain into a chilled glass. Add a dash of bitters.

    Firewater is actually a generic term for alcoholic beverages that contain between 30% and 60% alcohol by volume—that’s 60 to 120 prove. The Spanish word is aguardiente, which means “fiery water” or “burning water.”

    Brandy originates from brandywine, the Dutch word for “burnt wine.” The spirit is named from Pisco, a town located on the coast of Peru. Often, products were named for the town from which they were shipped.
    Find more of our favorite spirits and cocktail recipes.


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