by Riccardo Rossi
INTRODUCTION TO PISCO
The Pisco’s history, like the other spirits from Latin America, started with the arrival of the “conquistadores” to Perù.
In 1532, Francisco Pizarro and his troups arrived to Perù and they moved from the coast up to the Andes where, taking advantage of an internal civic war, captured and killed the Inca king Atahualpa and marched towards Cuzco, centre of the Empire.
The Spanish, during their colonization actions, they weren’t just looking for gold and other precious objects but their intent was also to spread Christian religion in these new countries, that’s why priests were travelling with them.
Priests needed wine for their religious services and so they planted the first vine.
They realised that the coastal areas south of Lima were the most fertile and in few years Perù became the best wine producer of the whole South America. The wine was exported to the other colonies and to Spain until the King Philip II decided to tax them. The result was the exportation decreased and the stockages of wine began to be distillated.
This “aguardiente” was named pisco, like the area where was produced and the port from where it was exported.
When we talk about pisco, we usually ask ourselves if the original one is from Perù or from Chile. That was topic of discussion for many many years but recently the European Commission, based on the discovery of some historical documents, established that the original one is the peruvian, withouth putting any limitations to chilean to call their product pisco too.
What is pisco? It’s probably one of the purest spirit on earth, made by one and only one distillation of the wine from 8 types of grapes, called “pisquera”, in pot still.
After distillation, pisco rests for about a years in tank made of steel, polyethylene or ceramic. By the law, peruvian pisco cannot be aged in wood and not external agents, including water, are allowed. That, for example, is one of the main difference betweean chilean and peruvian pisco.
There are 3 type of pisco:
- Puro: made with only one variety of grape
- Acholado: a blend of two or more grapes
- Mosto Verde: when they stopped the fermentation before all the sugars are converted in alcohol
Pisco has the most successful period in the second half of the 1800, when the cocktail “Pisco Punch” was the iconic cocktail of San Francisco during the Gold Rush.
Like most of the spirits, its decline began with the Prohibition on the 1920 and at the end of it, other spirits such as rum became more popular.
We’re now in a time in which pisco is trying to emerge again even though will be difficult to reach the fame that other products have.
Surely is taking advantage of the success that peruvian cuisine is having at the moment: in fact Perù has been rewarded for few years in a row “Best Culinary Destination” by the World Travel Award and it has 3 restaurants in the special ranking of the World best 50 restaurants in which 2 of them are in the top ten.
It can’t be just a coincidence if the pisco sales is going up more and more in the market from 2012 to nowadays and guess who’s the best importer together with the States? Chile!
THE PISCO SOUR
Without any doubts, most of the people knows pisco just for the “Pisco Sour”, maybe the most famous pisco based cocktail today. It was born in Lima at Morris bar in the early years of 1900 but was served then in the most iconic hotel bars of the city, like Hotel Maury and Hotel Bolivar.
The drinks has to be served strictly without any ice and in a small tumbler glass.
The recipe is the following:
- 60ml of Pisco (usually peruvian go even for more)
- 30ml Lime Juice
- 30ml Simple Syrup
- 15ml Egg White
- drops of Amargo Chuncho Bitter
- Shake everything without ice (dry shake) and then repeat with ice. Pour in the small tumbler without ice and add the drops of bitter (better if the peruvian Amargo Chuncho but even Angostura will do)
I can’t pretend to know if pisco will become a new trend in the mixology world, what I can say is that I see more and more bar using pisco in their drinklists and it’s also used in bar competition.
The winner of the Global Final of the Amaro Montenegro Competion had pisco in his drink, even if chilean.
Probably with some investments of brands the spirit can gain some more success and visibility and I hope that with my program of masterclasses around Italy I can give my little help.