A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Published May 31st 2017
Pastuso Promotes the Precious Peruvian Pisco
Travelling in South America a couple of years ago, the Pisco sour was always the cocktail-de-jour, the one that hotels would offer as the 'complimentary cocktail' on your first night. Whether it was Brazil, Peru, Chile or Bolivia, they all seemed to embrace the bitter-sweet drink and claim it as a local tipple.
Take it a level deeper and you will learn there is bitter rivalry over the proprietorship of Pisco, particularly between the Peruvians and Chileans. The Peruvians argue that Pisco is a regional drink which originated from the Peruvian coastal town of Pisco. The Chileans assert that Pisco is a generic term for a grape wine distillation, regardless of where it is produced. The European Union has accepted the Peruvian argument, so that 'Pisco' in the EU is necessarily Peruvian; elsewhere in the world, it can be from either country.
Pastuso is now offering Pisco masterclasses for groups of 6-10
That is about as heavy as the discussion got at a Pisco Masterclass I attended last night at Pastuso Cevicheria and Peruvian Grill, located at 19 ACDC Lane, Melbourne, which otherwise focused largely on championing the cocktails one can make from Pisco, and sampling them bar-side in the warm, convivial venue.
The masterclasses are led by resident Pisco master, Miguel Bellido, pictured here
Led by resident Pisco master, Miguel Bellido, with support from chef Alejandro Saravia, the group of 10 was led through a one-hour class on the finer details of this versatile tipple.
We learned that Pisco is a distilled wine - that is, there are two processes to create it: grapes are fermented to make wine, and then the wine is distilled, traditionally in copper pots, into the 'brandy' we know as Pisco. Unlike some spirits, Pisco is not aged in wood. This was apparent in the first tasting of the class - neat Pisco. Despite its high alcoholic volume, it's smooth to sip, light with a fruity hint.
A copper still of the type used to distill Pisco (this one for decoration only at Pastuso)
Pastuso served the first of the canapés following the Pisco tasting - the salmon with a sour orange dressing and plantain chips from their ceviche bar. This was a delightfully textural and subtly flavoured dish - a perfect complement to the drink.
Following on from this, Miguel ran through how to make the classic Pisco sour - made at Pastuso with quebranta Pisco, lemon and lime juice (both must be freshly squeezed), sugar syrup and egg white. Naturally the class then had to try the drink, and I can report it was far superior to any of the Pisco sours I sampled in South America.
The classic Pisco sour
Our second canapé came out at this point - and I fell in love with Peru all over again. It was the alpaca croquette (slow cooked alpaca shoulder crumbed and served with huacatay and aji amarillo sauce). Absolutely delicious.
Miguel then whipped up the Capitan cocktail, this time with Italia Pisco, sweet Vermouth and Agnostura bitters. He declared it to be a drink to rival the (gin based) Negroni, and I think he's right. I loved the complex spicy flavours of this drink. Miguel tells us the Capitan has been consumed by the Peruvian army to help them stay warm in the Andes. I can imagine it would be a great fireside tipple too.
The Capitan cocktail - rival to the Negroni
I left Pastuso with a warm glow in my belly and the strong thought that if ever I find myself buying Pisco, it will unquestionably be Peruvian.
Pisco Masterclasses are available now; there are no set times, instead you are encouraged to get together a group of six to 10 friends and get in touch with Pastuso. The cost is $45 per person for three drinks plus canapés. Email Pastuso on firstname.lastname@example.org or call on (03) 9662 4556 for more information or to make a booking.
Pastuso is open seven days from 12 noon until late.
The images in this article were taken by the writer. They are not to be reproduced in any form without the express permission of WeekendNotes.