For those of you who will read further expecting commentary or pithy observations about our recent monument troubles, let me apologize in advance. While I was certainly not in favor, I have nothing further of substance to add to either side of the argument and so I won’t be piling on. 

Here we will be looking toward that large continent to our south, below the equator, and finding two beverages that make a great fit for our summertime adult refreshment. Many of you may choose to stop reading now. We understand. 

 

Pisco

It is a fermented then distilled spirit made from grapes in both Chile and Peru. In fact, both countries lay claim to having the true and best pisco. Peru notes that the town alongside the river of the same name is Pisco. Chile claims that pisco is a word used all along the coast when referring to the spirit. 

Part of the issue is that early Spanish explorers founded the liquid back in the 1600’s and there was neither a Chile nor a Peru. Today Chile produces about three times as much pisco as Peru, with Peru claiming their pisco is of higher quality. This is one I will not be getting in the middle of since I already dodged a difficult situation earlier in this article. I am not walking under any ladders either.  

Bottom line is that pisco is a very fine beverage, and there are definite differences in the pisco made in their respective “home” countries. You should try them both and see which one strikes you as the preferred style. Because of a wide variation in how they are made, where they are made, and even what variety of muscatel grape they are made with, piscos from the same country show dramatic differences in weight, finish, bitterness on the palate, fruit on the nose, etc. 

Suffice it to say, some piscos are going to be better in different cocktails than others. Here are two recipes that are prime examples of trying to understand pisco and what it brings to the discussion. One, the Pisco Sour, is considered the defining cocktail of this spirit. The other is more of a party drink, which as you know, there’s nothing wrong with that. 

 

Pisco Sour

As featured in Epicurious from Ryan McGrale, No.9 Park, Boston, Massachusetts. 

 

  • 1 egg white
  • 2 1/2 ounces Pisco 
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • Angostura Bitters to your taste
  1. In cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine egg white, Pisco, simple syrup, and lemon juice.
  2. Cover, shake vigorously for 15 seconds or more to obtain the creamy consistency.
  3. Strain into six-ounce cocktail glass.
  4. Top with a few drops of bitters.

 

I need to mention that the bar gang at the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone is the definitive New Orleans outlet for this cocktail. Marvin Allen, Bar Dude par excellence and cocktail book author, is the go-to guy for Pisco Sour. 

 

Pisco Punch

Defined and defended by David Wondrich, Esquire Magazine, a Lover from afar of all things New Orleans

 

  • 1 pineapple(s)
  • gum syrup
  • 1 pint distilled water
  • 10 ounces lemon juice
  • 24 ounces brandy – pisco brand
  1. In a cocktail shaker, combine: 2 ounces pisco, 1 ounce distilled water, 2/3-ounce (4 teaspoons) syrup, 3/4-ounce lemon juice.
  2. Shake well, strain into a thin punch glass and garnish with syrup-soaked pineapple chunk.

 


Cachaça

Cachaça is the national spirit of Brazil and is fermented from the juice of sugar cane. In Brazil it was the Portuguese, not the Spanish, who settled and established their way of life while taking advantage of the raw ingredients of Brazil. Very successful colonization from the former European sea power. 

And from the beginning of the Portuguese incursion in 1500, all the way to the discovery of massive oil deposits in the 1930’s, sugar cane in Brazil has been key to the economy. With cane comes sugars and alcohol. The tie-in is inescapable. 

Cachaça is a little more straightforward than pisco because the quality of the sugar cane vintage is more consistent than with grapes’ vintages. Also, there is not the issue of two countries fighting for superiority and consumer love. 

There are, however, two kinds of cachaça – a white variety, which is the type used in Brazilian cocktails, and a premium (aged) variety, better for sipping. Stick with each one for the purpose intended. The white variety is akin to moonshine but not quite so refined. Not a good sipping beverage but fantastic in cocktails. 

There are sometimes confusions between rum and cachaça. Rum is made from molasses and aged in wood barrels, which adds to weight. Cachaça is made from the juice of fresh-squeezed sugar cane so it is lighter and fresher, with the white style undergoing no oak aging.  

Cachaça does lend itself to many cocktail recipes but it is most famous for the caipirinha. The drink was invented around 1918 and it included garlic and honey. It was used to cure the effects of the Spanish Flu, then in epidemic mode. 

Somewhere about 15 years later, the garlic and honey were dropped, and lemon and sugar were used. The name is derived from the Brazilian equivalent for “hillbilly,” used, it is thought, because the drink originally became famous in Sao Paolo where it arrived from the countryside’s rural areas

 

Caipirinha 

As prepared by the Editors of Esquire Magazine.

 

  • 2 oz. cachaça
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 old-fashioned glass
  1. Slice the lime into 1/2-inch rounds, cube them, and muddle them in an Old-Fashioned glass or small tumbler with the sugar.
  2. Add a couple of ice cubes.
  3. Pour in the cachaça.
  4. Serve with a stirring rod.

 

Two drinks from South America that speak to summertime refreshment and cooling pleasures. We have the heat and the humidity in common with South America. Why not the delightfully simple adult beverages? 

 

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Read Happy Hour here on www.myneworleans.com every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed, as well as stored (podcast), at www.wgso.com. Also, check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature every month in New Orleans Magazine. Be sure to watch "Appetite for Life," hosted by Tim every Thursday evening at 7 p.m., and Sundays at 5 p.m., on WLAE-TV, Channel 32 in New Orleans. Previously broadcast episodes are available for viewing at http://www.wlae.com/appetite-for-life/