Cocktail Know-How: Heading South With Pisco Sours

Last month I kicked this column off with an American throwback. I took a walk through pre- and post-Prohibition whiskey stardom, profiling a cocktail that is a part of the history of American nightlife. This month, however, is going to have a little international flair. I’m sticking with a revival of bitters-infused cocktails and profiling the pisco sour.

With a long and somewhat convoluted history, the pisco sour’s origin story is as fascinating as the drink is delicious.

Once again, there is some issue about when and where the cocktail originated. For as long as most people can remember, the pisco sour was thought to have originated in 1920s-era Lima, Peru, the frothy concoction having been created by Victor Morris at The Morris Bar. Recently, however, a recipe has appeared that dates back even further, to Chile in 1903. The Chilean recipe doesn’t make reference to the all-important bitters as an ingredient though, so for this column, Morris’ recipe owns dibs.

A quick genealogy of pisco: The spirit was first distilled in Peru in the 1600s, making it one of the oldest known spirits. Also making it unique is the process by which it is made, from distilling wine. This pioneer of wine-based libations wasn’t landlocked to Central and South America, though. Pisco punch was a superstar of the American gold rush. It was actually quite popular and easy to find along the West Coast from its first import in 1848 until Prohibition. Though has pisco remained largely dormant since 1920, the revival of the classic cocktail has thrust this Latin powerhouse back into the spotlight.

That’s enough history, back to the booze …

Morris’ pisco sour draws much of its inspiration from the whiskey sour and silver sour. Both drinks were staples of Morris’ cocktail menu, the latter even sharing ingredients but substituting vodka for pisco.
So how do you make this classic pisco cocktail? Its history may be a little long in the tooth, but the ingredient list and preparation are both novice-friendly.

3 ounces pisco
1 ounce lime juice
Simple syrup
1 egg white
Angostura bitters

Add pisco, lime juice, simple syrup and egg white to shaker. Add a few ice cubes (too much ice is the bane of a great pisco sour). Shake vigorously for one minute—to create a thick egg-white foam. Strain mixture into a coupe (carefully, so as not to allow ice into the cocktail). Garnish with a few dashes of Angostura bitters.

About that egg…Don’t let this unique ingredient scare you. When crafted with care, this punch of protein creates a velvety vehicle to give this incredible concoction a smooth ride.

The pisco sour has been applauded for its adaptability, so feel free to drink as a light and refreshing pre-dinner warm up or as a post-feast night-cap.

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