Pisco, a tasty and clear brandy distilled from fermented grape juice, is Peru's national drink.
Its origins go back to the XVI century, when it was first produced by the Spaniards from quebranta grapes (a variation of Muscat), growing in the vineyards of the Ica Valley. Its name probably comes from the Pisco port, in Ica, some 250 km south of Lima.
Pisco is obtained from the distillation of recently fermented grape juice or musts, which provide a distinctive taste (an "eau de vie" pure from its very beginnings). The distillation process of Pisco, created many centuries ago and transmitted from generation to generation, is also typical and unique.
There are 4 recognized types of Pisco:
Pure: from Quebranta grapes. Other non-aromatic varieties such as the Mollar or Black can also be used.
Aromatic: from aromatic grapes derived from the family of muscatels.
Green Must: originated from the distillation of grape musts in fermentation process (this refers to the musts in which sugar has not been transformed into alcohol)
Acholado: results from the distillation of musts of different grape varieties.
In recent years, there has been an increasing dispute between Peru and Chile over which country owns the appellation of Pisco. Recently, though, the World Intellectual Property Organization recognized the "pisco" denomination as a beverage of Peruvian origin (Registry 065, July 2005).
Moreover, the recent awards obtained by Peruvian Pisco are an overwhelming indication of its superior quality.
There are five main features distinguishing Peruvian Pisco from grape aguardientes made outside Peru.
1.- One of the most important differences between the genuine Pisco and foreign aguardientes is that the grape used for its preparation -artisan and industrial- is not limited to the aromatic grape "Moscatel". Actually, the emphasis is put on the flavor or in the aroma. This is why the most common grape types are "Quebranta" (a typically Peruvian mutation) and, in less percentage, the Normal Black and the Mollar, which are non-aromatic varieties.
2.- The distillation process used for preparing Pisco is carried out in distilleries or small stills of non-continuous operation, not in continuous distilleries. Thus, the constituting elements of the genuine Pisco will not be removed at the time of rectifying steams produced at its distillation.
3.- According to the definition of Pisco, this beverage is obtained from the distillation of recently fermented "fresh" musts. This type of process avoids recently fermented musts to remain stagnant for several months before being distilled or used for mature wines.
4.- In Peru, the distillation process is not suspended until obtaining the alcoholic Pisco at levels of 42° - 43° degrees Gay-Lusac. No distilled or treated water is added with the purpose of changing its consistency, color and other features that make it a distinctive product.
HOW TO MAKE PISCO SOUR
7 ½ oz (or 3 parts) Peruvian Pisco
2 ½ oz (1 part) key lime juice
2 ½ oz (1 part) sugar syrup
1 egg white
Pour the Pisco, key lime juice and syrup on a jar blender with enough ice to double the volume.
Blend on high. Add one egg white and blend again.
Serve. Pour a drop of Angostura bitter on each glass.
Tip: to make the sugar syrup just put ½ cup of sugar in a pot with 3 tbs of water, bring to a slow boil (always stirring), and cook until all the sugar has dissolved. Let the syrup cool before mixing with the Pisco and lime juice.