We’ve been waiting for an opportunity to name the Pisco Sour as Drink of the Day, and we have it on July 28 for Peru Independence Day. Chile and Peru bicker endlessly over who invented Pisco, and we’re not going to wade into that fight. But the Pisco Sour was first served in Lima, Peru, so we’re giving Independence Day in Peru the honor and then getting to the Pisco Sour recipe.
Independence Day in Peru
Independence Day in Peru celebrates the day that General José de San Martin, also known as Peru’s liberator, proclaimed independence from Spain. The following day, July 29th, is also a National Holiday to celebrate the establishment of the Republic of Peru. Together they’re the Fiestas Patrias peruanas. So if you need a reason for a two-day Pisco Sour bender we’re here to indulge you.
As you know, Spain ran amok colonizing the Americas around the 16th century or so. It took them about forty years to conquer the Inca Empire. You can do a lot with violence and bringing along smallpox to a population that had never seen it before.
Peru remained a Spanish stronghold for quite a while. By the early 19th century most South American nations had been swept by wars of independence. Elite members of society vacillated between emancipation and Spanish loyalty. It wasn’t until José de San Martin, along with his buddy Simón Bolivar from Venezuela, led military campaigns to occupy the territory that Peru became an independent nation. San Martin occupied Lima and declared Peruvian Independence on July 28, 1821.
It’s a pretty brutal story, but at least there was the upside of Pisco.
Winemaking in Peru dates back to early in the Spanish colonization, when grape vines were brought over in the 1540s. By the late 1500s some stills had been fashioned and aguardiente de uva was produced. This is what eventually became known as Pisco. Unlike Cognac, it is never aged in wood so it remains clear.
Peru and Chile both lay claim to being the place of invention and continue to argue the point. Even the name Pisco is the source of some controversy. The oldest known use was in 1764, when it may have acquired the name from the Peruvian town of Pisco, which was an important shipping port for exports. There it was known as aguardiente de Pisco. Others claim the name simply comes from the Quechua language and means bird. Still others note it was also the name used for amphorae in the region.
Either way, the spirit became popular around the world, particularly in places like California during the Gold Rush. It was readily available and has occupied an enduring place in the cocktail armament around the world.
The Pisco Sour
While people argue all day about the origins of Pisco, we know the Pisco Sour was first served at Morris’ Bar in Lima, Peru. Victor Morris, an American immigrant to Peru and bartender ran that establishment from 1916-1929 and invented the Pisco Sour right there.
The original recipe was just like a Whiskey Sour at the time, and did not include egg white. Nobody knows just when the egg white got added, but the first reports of it came from a visitor to the Maury Hotel in Lima, where the bar was headed by Mario Bruiget, a former protégé of Morris. Don’t be afraid of egg white. We’ve used it to good effect in drinks like the Rattlesnake and the Million Dollar Cocktail. The Pisco Sour recipe is no more daunting.
The Pisco Sour is a good enough drink that it has a government-approved day of honor. Dia National de Pisco Sour, or National Pisco Sour Day, is celebrated in Peru on the first Saturday of February. Everybody drinks them, a National Pisco sour mixing contest is conducted, and a good time is had by all. If you wish to impress your friends and be entirely authentic you can seek out Amargo Chuncho Bitters from Peru, but Angostura works just as well.
- Nick and Nora or coupe glass
- Add all ingredients to your trusty shaker.
- Place top on shaker - without ice - and shake vigorously to create a foam.
- Add ice and shake to chill.
- Strain into pre-chilled cocktail glass.
- Decorate top of drink with a few drops or a stripe of bitters.