This Saturday, Feb. 1, is National Pisco Sour Day. Okay, in Peru, all right?
I have no idea who comes up with these designations, although in this case I have a sneaking suspicion it was not the folks who make vodka. I also have no idea who these sorts of acclimations are cleared by. I would say it’s the job of the New Orleans City Council, except that in this case at least, the job got done and not postponed.
So anyway, it’s time to celebrate with a Pisco Sour because National Pisco Sour Day is a big day of celebration in Peru and, as you well know, New Orleanians celebrate every country’s big days. It’s our generosity of spirit, as well as finding any excuse to party.
For those of you not familiar with pisco, you are in for a real treat. Pisco is a clear brandy, made from grapes, produced in the wine producing regions of Chile and Peru. Both countries lay claim to the fact that they created pisco, but actually the brandy was developed by the Spanish when they were conquering this part of the world in the 16th century and obtaining their favorite spirit, Brandy from Spain, was not going so well.
Both Chile and Peru are fiercely proud of their respective pisco industries, and they both lay claim to having the “real deal.” To further muddle the water, at least for Chile, there is a village in Peru with the name Pisco. Here is a battle in which angels truly do fear to tread.
Peruvian pisco is made in continuous stills, the same process as single-malt scotches, and is made from a variety of grapes depending on quality designation and distilling techniques. The pisco from Peru goes into the bottle at the same proof level as when it exited the still. It is distilled to proof, quite an elaborate and difficult process. Water is never used to dilute the spirit or to adjust the proof.
Another point of differentiation between the piscos of the two countries: Peru uses several types of grapes, which makes for more of a variety of flavors. Chile uses mainly one grape, the Muscat. A few houses use the Torontel and the Pedro Jimenez but most Chilean piscos are of the one variety.
In the early 1900s, Pisco Punch became quite a popular drink in San Francisco, due to the easy trading routes between the South American west coast and California. Then an American, Victor Morris, decided to head to Peru to assist with the budding railroad industry. He was quite a good bartender also and soon had his own place, Morris Bar in Lima. And the bar’s most popular drink was his own creation, the Pisco Sour.
To demonstrate how seriously the Peruvians take their pisco, every bottle of the leading brand, Portón, contains 15 pounds of a blend of quebranta, albilla and torontel grapes.
Here's a recipe if you're planning to celebrate National Pisco Sour Day:
1 ½ parts Portón Pisco
1 ½ parts lime juice
1 parts simple syrup
1 egg white
A dash of Angostura or Peychaud’s Bitters
Shake Portón Pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, and egg white to a foamy, creamy froth. Garnish on the bitters. Pour into an Old Fashion glass. (Note there is no ice. You may wish to slightly chill the Portón and the other ingredients.)
What time does the Pisco Parade begin?