I’ve enjoyed my fair share of Pisco Sours over the years. It’s a refreshing, misunderstood, weird drink that comes burdened with myths, politics, and the usual cocktail “geek” bullshit. So I feel that, as someone who makes a Pisco Sour with every bit as much exuberance and skill as I drink one, I ought to dispel some of the mystique and share with you how this drink actually works. And, as with most things cocktail related, there are good ideas and bad ideas.
DON’T be swayed by the politics of the Peru/Chile debate. The truth is that Pisco predates the times when they were separate countries, and the grapes used to make it were introduced to the region by the Spanish. So find a pisco that you like and use it.
DON’T be afraid of pisco. It is, quite simply, a brandy made with grapes. And while pisco’s signature flavor typically comes from some variety of the floral muscat grape, don’t make the mistake of assuming this aromatic spirit is sweet. Pisco should be dry as a bone yet redolent of a field of fresh white flowers.
DO use a blend of fresh citrus juices to build your Pisco Sour. I always use half lime, half lemon in the drink to impart a deeper base of flavors than just lemon juice, which can be a little one-note. The beauty of a Pisco Sour is its many layers of flavors. Celebrate them.
DO use a generous portion of egg white in your Pisco Sour. The rich texture of the foam integrated into the drink makes for a surprisingly light and refreshing cocktail. I always recommend using a whole large egg white, or approximately one ounce if you’re pouring from a squeeze bottle.
DON’T hesitate to shake the hell out of your Pisco Sour without ice before you shake with ice to chill it. If needed, feel free to use your kitchen immersion blender to get the job done, we always whizz it for about ten seconds with ours at the bar to get those whites fluffy and incorporated.
DON’T be afraid to use a blender to make your Pisco Sours. Honestly, its a common practice around the world and my preferred method for making them at home. Simply build the drink in your blender, add a quarter cup of cracked ice per serving, and blend on high until you no longer hear the ice being whipped around the blender cup.
DO pick up an eyedropper to carefully place bitters on top of the foam. Whether you’re using Amargo Chuncho, or good old Angostura, a $3 eyedropper from Amazon will help you perfectly place those drops before you drag a toothpick through them.
• 2 oz. pisco (Encanto if you want good Peruvian stuff, Kappa if you want good Chilean)
• ½ oz. lemon juice
• ½ oz. lime juice
• ¾ oz. 2:1 simple syrup
• 1 whole egg white
Combine ingredients and dry shake or whip with a blender to make certain the egg whites are well beaten. Shake with ice cubes or blend with 2 oz. cracked ice until chilled. Strain into a chilled footed highball glass and garnish with bitters.
Jeffrey Morgenthaler is the bar manager at Pépé le Moko and Clyde Common, the acclaimed gastropub at the Ace Hotel in Portland, Oregon. He is also author of The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique.
AND NOW, A WORD FROM SOME BARTENDERS