Pisco is a Peruvian liquor produced by the fermentation of grape musts using traditional methods. The Pisco producing areas located in the coast of Peru are Lima, Ica, Arequipa and Moquegua, and the valleys of Locumba, Sama and Caplina (in Tacna). Pisco is the main ingredient of Peru’s national drink, Pisco Sour.
In Peru, the preparation of Pisco begins in March of each year with the harvest of grapes, season that marks an excellent time to visit and participate in the Vendimia Festival that takes place in Ica.
Pisco varieties are based on the type of grapes and the distillation method used. Pisco alcohol content is from 38% to 48% (76° to 96° proof). The 4 varieties of Pisco are:
- PURE PISCO (Pisco Puro): Made by fine distilled non-aromatic grapes (Quebranta, Mollar and Common Black). It has little aroma but complex taste. Used to prepare Pisco Sour.
- GREEN MUST PISCO (Pisco Mosto Verde): The method of distillation of partially fermented fresh musts requires a larger amount of grape, making its cost slighly more expensive. Elegant aroma, small amount of sweetness in the body makes this Pisco variety an elegant choice.
- BLENDED PISCO (Pisco Acholado): Stronger and higher alcohol volume. Each producer makes its own blend version by combining the aroma of the aromatic Pisco and the taste of the pure Pisco. Favorite by the experts to prepare Peruvian’s official drink, the Pisco Sour.
- AROMATIC PISCO (Pisco Aromatic): Prepared with aromatic grapes (Italia, Muscat, Torontel and Albila) the aromatic Pisco offers a floral and fruit aroma and taste. Aromatic Pisco is ideal for cocktail preparation like Chilcano de Pisco.
EVENTS RELATED TO PISCO
- Pisco Sour Day is celebrated the First Saturday of February (Parque de la Amistad, Plaza de Armas de Barranco and Parque de la Exposicion usually have fairs)
- Pisco Day is celebrated the Fourth Sunday of July.
- Vendimia Wine Festival (Second week of March): Fairs, competitions, floats, music and parties celebrating the abundance of grapes.
WINERIES IN ICA
A big attraction these fine bodegas are open all year, but the best time to visit is February to April, during the grape harvest. Best way to travel to the wineries is by taxi, taking close to 4 hours at a cost of around S/.50. Another solution is to take your hotel’s tour to the wineries. Most hotels offered tours to the wineries for around S/.40.
- Winery Vista Alegre
- Winery Tacama
- Winery Ocucaje
- Winery Tabernero
Pisco Sour is a cocktail prepared using Pisco, lemon or lime juice and diverse aggregates. Inspired in whisky sour, was first prepared in Downtown Lima in the 1920s.
The classic Peruvian Pisco Sour recipe is prepared with Quebranta Pisco. The ingredients are:
- 3 ounces of Pisco.
- 1 ounce of very green small limes (smaller limes are more acid)
- 1 ounce of cane syrup
- 1 egg white
- 6 ice cubes
- 1 or 2 drops of Angostura bitter
Shake the mix in a cocktail shaker until the ingredients combine.
If using a blender, mix all ingredients for one minute, except the egg white. Add the egg white with the blender off and only for five more seconds.
For a better taste combine Pure Pisco and Aromatic Pisco.
WHERE TO BUY PISCO OUTSIDE PERU
Of course, your best choice will be to do it personally at any of the wineries in Ica (compared this trip to a Napa Valley taste trip in northern California). Next will be any of the supermarkets in Lima like XX and XX. In the United States, Pisco spirits are hard to find, there are many similar ones but that are not authentic Peruvian Pisco. I found many online places that have good customer service and reliable worldwide shipping (many times arriving within a week of ordering a bottle). Some of the best deals I found are:
- Pisco Quebranta El Alambique: Exceptional Pisco made of Quebranta grapes.
- Pisco Tabernero La Botija: Comes in a beautiful ceramic bottle.
- Tacama Pisco Puro Quebranta: Non aromatic but with rich flavor.