By Hannah Vickers
Peru’s signature drink, the famous Pisco Sour has a taste quite unlike any other. It’s a curious mix of sharp tang and sweet, and its texture changes from cloudlike foam to icy cold in the time it takes for the liquid to break through its wall of raw egg white.
It’s as Peruvian as llamas, Machu Picchu, and ceviche (although this is a topic fiercely debated, as Chile also claims a right to the frothy cocktail and its high-alcohol base!) and is a drink that many tourists visiting Peru fall in love with.
History of the Pisco Sour
The Pisco based cocktail has fairly foggy origins. As with everything illustrious and desired, several claim to have been its creator. The most accepted tale is that it began its existence in Lima’s popular, wood paneled Morris Bar back in the early 20th century.
In this version of the libation’s birth, Victor Vaughen Morris, an American who moved to Peru for the mining trade in 1903, opened the Morris Bar and first made the drink as an alternative to the Whiskey Sour. The modern version of the Pisco Sour wasn’t born until late 1920s, when bartender Mario Bruige added Angostura bitters and egg white.
However, the Pisco Sour can trace its origins much further back to the creation of its base: the strong, brandy-like liquor, Pisco.
Back when the Spanish conquistadores came to take over Peru, they brought with them grapes that they shipped across all the way from the Canary Islands to make wine. The leftover grapes were then distilled to make what was to become Peru’s pride, the dangerously strong Pisco (it’s illegal for producers to dilute the liquor with water, so it consistently has an alcohol content of 38—48%).
Both Chile and Peru claim to be the birthplace of the legendary Pisco, but Peru was recently recognized by the European Commission as having patrimony—a triumph which many Peruvians celebrated with a, you guessed it, Pisco Sour.
The eggy, foamy, sweet and sour drink is a confusing combination of tastes that sounds all kinds of wrong on paper (raw egg being the key ingredient), but which tastes so right, you’ll be ordering your next one even as you’re licking the remains of white froth from your lip.
The famous cocktail even has its own day: Pisco Sour day is celebrated on the first Saturday of February.
How to Make a Pisco Sour
The Pisco Sour, despite the complexity of its flavor, is pretty easy to make. You need to mix three parts Pisco, with one part each of sugar syrup, lime juice, and egg whites. Add ice, then either blend or shake energetically in a cocktail shaker until there’s a nice, thick layer of foam at the top (many purists insist shaken is the proper way to go).
Pour into a glass (typically an Old Fashioned glass), drip a dash of Angostura bitters on top, and enjoy! You have to drink through a thick head of foam (if you’ve done it right!) to get to the limey liquid underneath, and the combination of sweet foam and sour liquid is truly splendid.
Hannah Vickers has lived in Lima, Peru for a year-and-a-half and is the editor of Peru this Week. You can read more of her work on her blog or on the Peru this Week website. She wrote this article on behalf of Aracari Travel, specialists in creating unique luxury travel itineraries in Peru.