GSN Alert: February 3rd – National Pisco Sour Day

1610834_10152862980905943_61540934822568108_nThe Pisco Sour has been around for nearly 100 years now, but you still rarely see it on cocktail menus outside of metropolitan cities.  Hailing from Lima, Peru, it was created by Victor Morris an ex-patriot American.  Designed as a South American spin on the Whiskey Sour, it became an instant hit.  Originally a simple mix of pisco, simple syrup and lime juice, by 1924 the recipe included the key addition of egg white topped with aromatic bitters.  Sadly, only five years later Morris declared bankruptcy and soon passed from cirrhosis of the liver.  Perhaps too much of a good thing.

If you want the total authentic experience, make sure to use Amargo Chuncho bitters which are made in Peru.

Pisco Sour
1.5oz Peruvian pisco (Porton, Barsol or Encanto are good brands)
0.75oz fresh lemon juice
1oz simple syrup
1 small egg white
Amargo Chuncho Peruvian Cocktail Bitters (use Angostura bitters in a pinch)Combine pisco, juice, syrup and egg white in a shaker; and shake vigorously without ice. Add ice, shake well again and strain neat. Place a few drops of bitters on top of the foam.

GSN Review: La Caravedo Pisco

caravedoBack in 2012, GSN reviewed the original Pisco Portón here.  With the category exploding in the U.S. (as it should), the company has introduced a pisco puro.  What is a “pisco puro”?  Basically it means it is crafted from a single grape varietal.  There are only eight allowed in peruvian pisco: Quebranta, Mollar, Uvina, Negra Criolla, Italia, Muscatel, Torontel and Albilla.  La Caravedo uses the Quebranta grape, which is the dominant and original grape used in pisco, and the one most often found in a pisco sour.

Located in Ica, Peru, Hacienda La Caravedo is the oldest distillery in the Americas going back to 1684.  As with all Peruvian piscos, they use small batch copper pot stills and do not age the spirit or add water to bring it down to proof.  You are tasting nothing but the pure heart of the distillate.

La Caravedo (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Apple, pear, grape seed, wet grass.
Taste: Floral and semi-fruity with a medium dry mouthfeel.  Some peppery notes kick in after a moment, but these are tempered by a nutty and oatmeal-like chewiness.  Very fresh and evocative.
Finish: Medium long with more of the grape character shining through towards the end.
Overall: A very nice pisco and one that works just as well as a chilled sipper as it does in a cocktail.  Pisco Portón has done it again!
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: La Caravedo

GSN Backbar Review: February 23-27, 2015

indexPernod Ricard is launching a new extension to its Chivas Regal Scotch whisky brand in the U.S. market. According to Pernod, the new entry—Chivas Regal Extra (80 proof)—is created using rare whiskies matured in Oloroso Sherry casks, with the French company’s Strathisla malt comprising the heart of the blend. It’s currently available in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Chicago, Northern California and Texas, and will expand nationally later this year.

indexStarting this week, Republic National Distributing Co. RNDC will begin distributing Wicked Dolphin’s Silver, Spiced and Coconut rums, as well as the brand’s Apple Pie, Strawberry and Blueberry RumShine expressions, throughout South Carolina. Produced using Florida sugarcane, the Wicked Dolphin range retails for around $20-$25 a 750-ml. Along with South Carolina and Florida, Cape Spirits plans to launch the brand in Georgia, Maryland and Washington D.C. this spring, with entry into New York and Massachusetts to follow in the summer.

imagesPisco Portón LLC has added to its Peruvian pisco offering with a new release, La Caravedo. Crafted by Pisco Portón’s master distiller Johnny Schuler at Hacienda La Caravedo in Ica, Peru, the latest offering is a pisco puro, meaning it is made from only one of the eight grape varieties allowed by Peruvian law in the making of the spirit. The Quebranta grape is a non-aromatic varietal from the coast, which gives La Caravedo a slightly sweet and mixable quality with notes of botanicals and dried fruit, the company says. La Caravedo is available in select U.S. markets for about $24.99 a 750-ml.

All information courtesy of Shanken News Daily

GSN Alert: February 1st – National Pisco Sour Day

Pisco-es-Perú-croppedThe first time I had a Pisco Sour, it was a revelation.  Not only was it the first time I’d ever tasted Pisco, but it was also the first time I’d had egg white and bitters in a cocktail.  This all seems like ancient history now, as I’ve tasted hundreds of different cocktails with more exotic ingredients than those.  But, at the time it broadened my idea of what could be done beyond a three ingredient drink, as well as piquing my interest in prohibition era cocktails.

Though Chile and Peru both claim the origin of the Pisco Sour, only Peru has a public holiday in honor of the drink which is always held the first Saturday in February.  This makes sense, because research shows that the cocktail originated in Lima, Peru.  But surprisingly it was created by an American bartender who emigrated to Peru at the turn of the century.  His name was Victor Vaughen Morris and he opened his own namesake bar in 1916 after living in the country for 13 years.  My theory is that he simply created a typical sour using pisco, lime juice and simple syrup in the early part of the 1920’s. This would have been tasty enough, a pisco Daiquiri as it were.  It took another decade or so for one of the other bartenders working there to add an egg white and bitters to the drink, creating instead a South American riff on the classic version of the venerable Whiskey Sour.

Speaking of bitters, I prefer to use Amargo Chuncho bitters which are made in Peru.  You can find out more here.

As a bonus, I also have an original cocktail sent to GSN for you to try at home.  Salud!

Hometown (Created by Enrique Sanchez)
Rose Pistola, San Francisco

1 ¾ parts Portón
¾ part fresh lemon juice
¾ part Darbo Elderflower Syrup
½ part Averna
½ part egg white
Angostura bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker. Shake vigorously without ice. After dry shake, add ice and shake all ingredients again. Shake contents over a martini glass. Garnish with 1 mint leaf and a dash of Angostura bitters.

‘Enrique Sanchez of Rose Pistola in San Francisco created the Hometown as a reflection of his Peruvian and Italian heritage, using each culture’s respective spirit: pisco and amaro. He notes, “Portòn offers this cocktail a bouquet of flavors with a touch of pineapple on the finish which, when combined with the caramel-bitter of Averna, give birth to a very balanced and nostalgic rendition of a pisco sour.”’

Hometown Bottle 16

GSN Review: Macchu Pisco


Pisco can be a confusing spirit.  Some insist that it is a Peruvian creation, while others maintain it began in Chile.  It can be made from  several different grape varietals, each one imparting a unique characteristic, sometimes a blend, other times a single type.  Some piscos are aged in unusual woods, while others are not legally allowed to be aged at all.  Either way, one thing is certain, there can be no substitute when making the ubiquitous Pisco Sour cocktail.

Macchu Pisco is crafted in Peru using Quebranta grapes distilled in copper pot stills and rested for nine months in non-wood containers.  Interestingly, no water is added to bring the spirit down to proof, but rather it is distilled at 40% ABV.  As well, it takes the equivalent of eight bottles of wine to make one bottle of Macchu Pisco.  All of this makes for a highly intriguing and seductive spirit.

Macchu Pisco (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Sweet, floral and crisp.
Taste: Ultra smooth with slightly spicy edge.  A lot of the grape quality comes through.  Very fresh and organic tasting.  Bright, fruity and well distilled.
Finish: Medium dry with a pleasant vine fruit aftertaste.
Overall: One of the best Quebranta piscos, with a lot of character and freshness.  Makes for a stunning Pisco Sour.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Macchu Pisco

GSN Review: Capel Chilean Pisco

I attended a BarSmarts seminar a few years ago where one of the speakers began to talk about upcoming trends and new spirits that would be making mixological inroads in the U.S.  One that was mentioned several times was Pisco.  I was familiar with it as a Peruvian grape brandy.  However, I learned it is also produced in Chile and has been so for almost 450 years.  Originally what is now called Chile was a geographical part of Peru when ruled by the Spanish in the 16th century.  In fact, it was the Spanish who introduced grape varietals to South America and began distilling wine.

Now both countries claim Pisco as their national spirit.  The styles are many, but it still comes down to distilled grape brandy.  There are thirteen grape varieties which can be used in the production of Pisco, and it must be aged at least 60 days in either French or American oak casks or stainless steel.  Capel uses a blend of 100% Pedro Jiminez grapes grown on estates in the Copiapó, Huasco, Elqui, Limarí and Choapa valleys.  These are distilled, then aged for five months in stainless steel, giving it a light and fruit forward character.

Capel Pisco (80 proof)
Visual: Perfectly clear.
Nose: Bright vine fruit, candy-like florality, enticing fresh grape sense.
Taste: Light and  bright with loads of floral notes and obvious grape character.  Fruity, but not to the point of overwhelming the distillate.
Finish:  Fairly long with a great deal of heat and spice.  A bit rustic, with a lot of burn in the far back palate.
Overall:  Not the smoothest Pisco I’ve ever had, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Certainly it will work well in a classic sour and as a base spirit in most cocktails.  Considering the under $20 a bottle price point, it is recommended.
GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: Capel