Wanderer and writer. Works for a South America tour company: www.saluxuryexpeditions.com
Published March 18th 2013
Peruvian Pisco Sour: Sipping the Ultimate Cocktail in Lima
Slightly sweet. A tad tart. Frothy on top and smooth to the bottom. That's a pisco sour. Not to be mistaken for the Chilean version, which is basically a margarita with pisco, a Peruvian pisco sour is a work of art. Grape brandy, a swirl of syrup, a squeeze of lime, a dash of bitters, and the wisp of egg white, shaken and served.
Peruvian cuisine is finding its way to cities around the globe, but no place serves it better than its home seaside capital of Lima—and no place mixes its pisco sours quiet as well.
Pisco, a grape brandy, comes from the dry desert coastal strip that runs south of Lima down into northern Chile. The liquor's origin likely dates back to the mid-1500s, after the arrival of the Spanish. As one story goes, local farmers with wine that was not good enough for export distilled the already fermented grapes to create a new alcoholic drink: pisco. The name may come from the Quechua word for a type of bird common in area of pisco production, or from the ancient name of a container used to store alcoholic drinks, called piskos.
The history of the pisco sour cocktail is more recent. The drink was created in the 1920s by an American expatriate Victor Morris, supposedly in attempt to recreate a whisky sour without the whisky. Instead, he ended up creating what is now Peru's official cocktail. There is even a Pisco Sour Day, held on the first Saturday in February.
Trying a pisco sour while in Peru is as essential as visiting Machu Picchu. Here are my three favorite bars in Lima for the perfect pisco sour:
La Rosa Nautica - Miraflores
You really can't miss this one. La Rosa Nautica juts out on a pier from the Miraflores coastline, offering a spectacular view of the surf. It's the only restaurant in Lima to be located out on the water. La Rosa Nautica has two sides; one contains a full service restaurant, the other holds the bar. Skip the restaurant, which offers overpriced and mediocre food, and head for the bar. You'll be treated to the best view in town and have a solid selection of specialty pisco cocktails to choose from. Address: Espigon 4 beach circuit, Miraflores
There's debate about where the first pisco sour was served. Most believe it was Bar Morris, which closed down in 1933. Picking up the mantel in central Lima were established businesses such as Hotel Bolivar and Hotel Maury, both of which offer a taste of back in time. I've had pisco sours at both, and Hotel Maury by far serves up a tastier concoction—and as the story goes, Hotel Maury is responsible for being the first to add egg whites to the cocktail, a now distinguishing characteristic between a Peruvian pisco sour and a Chilean one. Address: Ucayali 201 Central Lima
Looking to experience Lima's modern nightlife? You need to head to the bohemian district of Barranco. And few places are as hip and popular as Ayahuasca Bar. It's located in a beautiful historic building from the late 1800s, complete with Moorish wood accents and spiral staircases. The rooms have been converted into cozy lounge areas with couches and funky decoration. The cocktail menu is extensive. After you've tried the classic pisco sour, start experimenting with some variations—a maracuya sour is a good place to start. Address: Avenida Prolongacion San Martin 130 Barranco