Every country has its unique version of local cocktails that tell great stories about culture, and Peruvian cocktails are filled with local ingredients and great stories. The Chilcano de Pisco and the Pisco Sour are two of many Peruvian cocktails that share great history with the country while contributing amazing tastes appreciated by people worldwide.
We sat with Zac Woo, a Bartender from Baro, one of Toronto’s most popular restaurants and got the scoop on why he suggests trying Peruvian Chilcano de Pisco and Pisco Sour cocktails.
“For me, just like my motivation to see a new place, experience a different culture or a different style of food, I would recommend the Pisco sour and Chilcano because they are both not only a great expression of Peruvian culture, but both cocktails are a great expression of Pisco (liquor) itself.”
These two cocktails contain local ingredients and spirits coming from Peru. You can tell that a drink reflects the culture and the social scene of a place when it uses local commodities creatively. For a start, both the Chilcano and Pisco Sour use pisco, a famous Peruvian spirit. These drinks are part of Peruvian history and social life from their early beginnings to their modern evolution. It’s one of Peru’s gastronomic contributions to the world, refreshing the local palate and your party across the other side of the world.
The best thing aside from being so refreshing and delicious, Peruvian cocktails are also simple to make! You can make it for the family on different occasions or to friends during a weekend party. So prepare those shiny glasses because it’s time to experience Peru’s thirst-quenching, world-famous cocktails!
Pisco sour is a Peruvian cocktail that has been in the culture for a long time. Pisco Sour’s origins have been debated over whether it came from Peru or Chile. However, Peru has records of the drink’s origins in the early 1920s by a bartender named Victor Morris. It is believed that the ex-pat bartender started concocting the smooth, frothy cocktail in his own Morris’ Bar in downtown Lima.
“The Pisco Sour is a well known classic and a staple/go-to for any cocktail bartender,” says Zac Woo. This cocktail is not only rich in flavour but has a rich history behind its consumption.
A new discovery dates further than Victor Morris’ invention, though. A recent finding of a Peruvian creole cookbook from 1903 in Lima titled ”Nuevo Manual de Cocina a la Criolla” suggests that the origins of the Pisco Sour may be a traditional creole cocktail made at that time simply called “cocktail.” Whatever the exact source may be, both histories evidence the Pisco Sour originating in Peru.
This drink is indeed part of the culture and has become Peru’s national drink that every first Saturday of February is celebrated as National Pisco Sour Day in the country! We celebrate the day to commemorate the creative mixological wonder. You know a cocktail is that good when a day is dedicated to celebrating its creation!
Here’s the basic recipe for a delicious Pisco Sour.
2 ounces pisco of your choice
1 ounce of lime juice, freshly squeezed
½ ounce simply syrup
1 egg white
Angostura bitters as garnish
Mix the lime juice, pisco, and egg white in a shaker vigorously. Add ice in the shaker, then shake again until chilled. Strain into a chilled Nick and Nora Glass or alternately, in a rocks glass with fresh ice. Finally, add a few drops of Angostura bitters. You can swirl the bitters using a thin straw into a simple design.
A few tips when making your Pisco Sour: try out different pisco blends to enjoy a variety of Pisco Sours. A Quebranta grape or an Acholado blend are good starting choices. Same as Chilcano, it’s best to use lime as its acidity and zest are different from a lemon. Another tip is to shake your cocktail well so that it’ll form a nice thick foamy layer on top when you pour it into your glass. The foam adds texture and aesthetic to your drink. Lastly, If you can, get your hands on some Amargo Chuncho Bitters, that would be a great replacement to Angostura bitters since the former is preferred in Peru.
Chilcano de Pisco
The Chilcano de Pisco is a local Peruvian drink that has refreshed locals since the 20th century. There are some versions of its origin, one of which is that It started in Lima, Peru, where Chilcano was developed as a substitute for gin. Another story is that Chilcano began when Italian immigrants introduced to locals a drink called Buongiorno, a drink made of grappa, lime juice, and ginger beer. Later on, the local ingredient pisco substituted grappa. They started calling the beverage “Chilcano.”
The drink shares the same name with Chilcano de Pescado, a Peruvian fish soup known as a delicious hangover cure, which also uses lime as an ingredient. It’s believed that the drink has the same remediation effects as the soup. That’s why it’s given the same name.
Whichever story may be more accurate, one thing is for sure, Chilcano is delicious, refreshing, and easy to prepare. Its simplicity made it available to Peruvians from different regions and gave the drink variations using different kinds of pisco and local ingredients as bitters.
“Pisco Chilcano, the lesser known of the two (outside of the South-American food & beverage scene) seamlessly blends together the flavours of both ginger and lime to create a familiar flavour pairing that, like the Pisco Sour, still allows the Pisco to shine through,” says Zac.
Pisco is a Peruvian spirit made from grapes. It’s the spirit used in preparing Chilcano. It has various flavors, depending on which region of Peru it’s from and the kind of processes the ingredients undergo but generally has an earthy flavor similar to other brandies. Chilcano can have various flavors depending on the pisco you use, so note which ones suit your palate best.
Chilcano, like a lot of Peruvian cocktails, uses lime as its citrus. Limes are common in most of Latin America. These extremely sour citrus are local ingredients in Peru, while lemons are pretty rare to find. You can taste the difference between the two fruits when you add them to your drinks. Lime has a bit of a stronger sour and a more prominent bitterness, a perfect complement to pisco.
Here’s a simple way to make an amazing Chilcano.
2 ounces pisco of your choice
½ ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
Ginger ale, to top
2 drops angostura bitters
Lime twist as garnish
With a highball glass filled with ice, add your choice of pisco and lime juice.
Add the ginger ale and at least two drops of bitters.
Stir the drink until chilled, and then add your lime twist.
A few tips for a fantastic Chilcano: chill the ginger ale ahead of time to avoid down your cocktail with the ice. You can use white tequila as a substitute for pisco when it’s not available. If you want your cocktail a bit sweeter, use simple sugar syrup. To make the drink more authentically Peruvian, add jarabe de goma, a Peruvian sugar syrup.
Ways To Enjoy The Refreshing Peruvian Cocktails
That’s it. You can have it on almost any occasion, and we know this is best during summers as the combination of citrus flavors, bitters, and pisco is absolutely refreshing under the summer sun! You can enjoy these bright, citrusy drinks Peru is so proud of with your friends and family.
It’s that easy to prepare these two iconic drinks. When you’re satisfied and confident with the recipe, try it again with different varieties of pisco to discover the assortment of Peruvian spirits and how these add flavor to your Peruvian cocktails.
Adding Chilcano and Pisco Sour to your personal mixology list will undoubtedly liven up your parties. You’d swear that it feels like you are partying in Lima with these cocktails.