This week in our Year of Drinking Adventurously, week 34, we are traveling to South America, to Peru actually. Pisco is a brandy that hails from Peru and Chile. A reminder for you, brandy is distilled from wine. How it varies most distinctly from brandy as we are accustomed, is that pisco cannot be aged on wood. This allows more flavors of the grapes to come through to the finished product. There are only eight different varietals of grapes that can be used for making pisco. Additionally, it can only be made in five different regions on the coast of Peru.
Our author tells us that Chile has certain standards, like Peru, but they are not as stringent, and not recognized by all countries. I was unaware of the battle between Chile and Peru, over the origins and provenance of pisco. Before now, I’ve only ever know of pisco as a Peruvian spirit. Evidently, the U.S. is one that does recognize Chilean Pisco as they keep the ABV (alcohol by volume) more in line with Peru’s pisco.
The pisco I chose is from Peru. I stood in the store for quite some time mulling over my purchase. There were 4 different varieties within the Barsol line. I can’t recall now what entirely drove my choice, but I wish I had picked a different one. The one I chose, the Barsol Primero Quebranto, was in my opinion, unremarkable. Neutral, with a hint of earthiness at the finish. I picked up none of the hints of fruit or aromatics the distiller boasts of on their website. In my research for cocktails, many noted how pisco, in general, can be used in place of any other spirit in any cocktail. That being a bonus for it’s neutrality. If I finish this bottle and get another, I will pick another one that has more flavor and character.
I made two cocktails with pisco, and while I was most familiar with the Pisco Sour, I found out there are five cocktails that are “traditional” pisco cocktails. All of which are cocktails we are accustomed to with other spirits, but have taken on their own life with pisco.
I started with the Pisco Sour. Combining fresh squeezed lemon (or lime) juice, pisco, and an egg white with a finish of bitters. The egg white is what gives the drink that pretty layer of white foam. A very easy drinking drink that went down quite easily; perfect for a summer evening. Again, I would have liked this more with a more distinctive spirit, as this pisco just vanished in there.
Next I made El Capitan, which is a bit of a riff on a Manhattan. Again, I needed a more distinctive pisco, but found I liked this drink the more I let it sit and the flavors balanced. I sipped on this for awhile, and liked it more and more. In lieu of a nice maraschino cherry in the Manhattan, this was finished with lemon.
I have had enough spirits and cocktails over the years to recognize a few things. One of which is the distinctive headache I get from alcohol. Not a hangover per se, but certain alcohols give me a headache. I have yet to determine what exactly the culprit is, but this was one of those. I am not giving up on pisco, this just the one for me. Pisco has been on my to-do list for quite some time and I was delighted to have a reason to finally give it a try.
I’m pretty sure Meg was going off book this week, so let’s see what she got up to.
Cheers to another week of drinking adventurously!