Pisco Sour Recipe
Not So Simple
The Pisco Sour should be the simplest of cocktails. It’s your standard sour recipe; Spirits, citrus, and sugar. There is usually some egg white involved. And some bitters. No big deal, right?
Except that no matter what you do, you’re not likely to get it right. At least according to any self-respecting Peruvian or Chilean drinker.
The Pisco Sour is a South American classic cocktail. The variation on the Whiskey Sour was created by Victor Morris, an American bartender in Lima, Peru in the early 20th century. He ran a bar called Morris’ Bar in Lima that was popular with the Peruvian upper class and English-speaking expats.
Over the years Morris’ cocktail went through a few revisions. The iconic modern version of the Pisco Sour recipe was created by Mario Bruiget, one of the bartenders at Morris’ Bar. He can be credited with the addition of the egg white and the bitters.
So, here’s the problem: There is a bit of a rivalry between Chile and Peru as they both claim the Pisco Sour as their national drink. Adding to the debate is the fact that they both lay claim to Pisco, the cocktail’s base spirit. While Chilean and Peruvian Pisco are related, they are not interchangeable.
So What is Pisco?
Pisco is basically eau de vie de vin. Which is to say that it is a spirit distilled from grapes. Basically, Pisco is distilled wine. Delicious stuff, and again pretty simple. Except that, they make it differently in both countries. In Chile, they bring the proof down to about 40% and sometimes they age the spirit in barrels. Peruvian Pisco, on the other hand, is never aged in wood and it is bottled at whatever proof it comes off the still.
In short, you will need to make some adjustments depending upon which spirit you are using. Chilean Pisco is sweeter and is bottled at a lower proof than Peruvian Pisco. So the rule of thumb is this, if you are using Chilean Pisco in your cocktail you will want to use slightly less syrup and lemon juice.
Lemon or Lime
Then there is the issue of the limes, or lemons. In Chile they use a variety of limes (or lemons?) called limones de pica, which you probably can’t get if you’re not in Chile. In Peru I’ve heard they use Key lime juice, which seems wrong because Key limes aren’t key limes if they don’t come from Florida. Anyway, even in South America people often use lemon juice. So take your pick.
The egg white is apparently used in Peru, but not in Chile. Except when it is used in Chile.
North American drinkers recognize the drink for the drops of Angostura bitters on the surface of the egg white foam. South Americans will tell you that’s not a true Pisco Sour. They use Chuncho Amargo bitters. Which are, unfortunately, not easy to find in this part of the world.
So you’re not going to make your Peruvian or Chilean guests happy. Obviously, there is no set standard Pisco Sour recipe. That’s fine, feel free to experiment and adapt it to your palate.
Pisco Sour Recipe
- Glass: chilled coupe
- 2 oz. Pisco
- 3/4 oz. simple syrup
- 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
- 1 oz. egg white
- Garnish: Angostura bitters
- In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine Pisco, syrup, juice and egg white.
- Shake for approximately 15 seconds.
- Remove ice from shaker and shake without ice for 20-30 seconds.
- Fine strain into chilled coupe glass.
- Top with a few drops of bitters.
You may have to adjust the sugar and lemon juice to account for the level of sweetness in different varieties of Pisco.