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February 15, 2014

By: Nick Dall

Cocktail of the week: Pisco sour

Secondary Categories: Chile, The Essentials

There can’t be a more contentious cocktail anywhere in the world. Chile and Peru have just about gone to war over which country is the home of pisco sour. Instead of worrying about such details, I reckon it’s better to embrace the differences between the Chilean and Peruvian interpretations of the cocktail and try as many versions as you can. You’re on vacation, after all.

Picture: Martyn

There’s no doubt that the primary ingredient of the cocktail – pisco, a light-coloured brandy or aguardiente – originally comes from the Peruvian city of Pisco, although there are differences in how it’s made in each country. In general, Peruvian pisco is unwooded and bottled at distillation strength while Chilean pisco is almost always wooded and is often watered down a bit.

Picture: Fer Quintana

A pisco sour always contains pisco, sugar, lemon (or lime) juice and ice. In Peru you’re more likely to see the addition of egg white and bitters while Chilean bartenders are more minimalist. For me this is one of the few cases where more definitely is more: the egg whites in Peruvian pisco sour make the whole thing go down a lot more smoothly.

Picture: J.B.

On your South American adventure be sure to try pisco sours in the bars of Lima and Santiago, and let us know which version of this potent and refreshing drink you prefer.