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Adventures of George in the Wonders of Pisco

pisco sour by tony abou-ganim

Vesper Bar

George, sitting at the Vesper Bar inside the Cosmopolitan, early for a dinner with friends at STK, was in search of something new to imbibe. Being one to trust the opinion of those mixing the cocktails, he sought advice.

“Have you ever tried a Pisco Sour?” the bartender asked in an Australian accent.

“Never had one! What’s Pisco?” George replied.

encanto piscoChris, the gentleman behind the mahogany, educated him. “It’s a really simple drink of Pisco, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, egg white and bitters.” He informed George, “Pisco is brandy that comes from either Peru or Chile. We use Barsol Primero Quebranta, made from 100% non-aromatic Quebranta grapes, which works great in this cocktail.”

George tried one and found it to be superb! The complex, round, full-bodied Pisco worked wonderfully with the astringency of the lime juice, which was balanced with simple syrup and given a rich, creamy mouth-feel from the egg white. The addition of Angostura bitters, resting seductively on the emulsified egg white adorning the top, lent lovely aromatics and just a touch of spice to the drink. Yummy indeed!

After finishing a second, George asked for the check and thanked Chris for the wonderful evening. As George was leaving, Chris said, “If you’re ever in San Francisco check out a joint called Cantina; they make the best Pisco Sour I’ve ever had!” San Francisco? George did not need to be told twice and headed to the City by the Bay for a little weekend adventure.

After checking into his hotel, George headed to Cantina to experience Chris’ recommendation for the “best” Pisco Sour. It was just after 6:00 when he arrived and relatively quiet, so he found an empty barstool. “I’ll have a Pisco Sour. I hear you make the best!” George called to the bartender. As George was waiting for his cocktail, he perused Cantina’s menu and came across another unfamiliar libation called Pisco Punch. The bartender placed the drink, with the telltale drops of bitters floating on the creamy froth, in front of George and waited for him to take the first sip.

“Well, does it live up to its reputation?” asked the barkeeper.

“It’s delicious!” George replied. “Do I detect a slight floral note?”

“It may be the Pisco. We use Campo de Encanto, which is an Acholado, or blend of four different grape varietals: Quebranta, Torontel, Moscatel and Italia.” He should know! As it turns out, the guy behind the stick was Duggan McDonnell, a partner in Campo de Encanto.

“So tell me about the Pisco Punch on your menu,” George said.

Duggan explained, “There was a time in San Francisco when Pisco was very popular and it was a bar, a bartender, and a drink that made it famous. Pisco Punch was invented by Duncan Nicol at a bar called the Bank Exchange at the end of the 1800s. Although that recipe was a well-guarded secret, we make ours with Pisco, pineapple, fresh lime juice, and our own secret sauce.”

George had another of Cantina’s wonderful Pisco Sours, before sampling several of their Pisco Punch offerings and starting to dream of adventures in South America. Feeling surprisingly cheerful, George left with a newfound desire to visit Peru and experience firsthand the beauty that is Pisco!

pisco sour recipe