Before I was a Lemon Drop Martini girl, I was a Pisco Sour girl, and it all began in Portland, Oregon.
A few years ago, my husband and I were visiting family in Portland. We kicked around ideas for dinner out, and opted for Andina – a Peruvian restaurant downtown in an old brick building. The exterior was inviting, and once inside, it was stunning. And so was the food. Andina completely excels at their small plates. The four of us shared everything with each other, and they were all solid gold. But the star of the show for me was their Pisco Sour cocktail. And every Pisco Sour since then has fallen short.
To be clear, I've had Pisco Sours in Las Vegas, San Francisco, Atlanta, and all around the town I live in on Lake Tahoe. I've had them in Santa Fe, Aspen, and Miami. I had high hopes for Miami. But no. Portland's Andina wins first prize. And no, full disclosure, I haven't tried them in Peru. I traveled to Lima and Cuzco many years ago, but that was way before my Pisco Sour phase.
So when Tamara of the Beyond Mere Sustenance blog proposed Latin American Cuisine for our Progressive Eats party theme for this month, I knew immediately what I wanted to make. Although I admit I did give some consideration to some street food empanadas I had in Ecuador a few years ago. More about them in a future post.
What is a Pisco Sour?
There is general agreement on the ingredients, but the amounts of each ingredient differ. Bottom line, it's according to personal preference.
A traditional Pisco Sour is generally made up of 5 ingredients:
Amargo Bitters (order it on Amazon by clicking on the below photo, or pick up a bottle of Angostura bitters as a substitute)
As a sign of my commitment to you all, my husband and I tried 5 versions of Pisco Sours using these ingredients by varying the amounts of Pisco, lime juice, and bitters. The egg white and simple syrup stayed the same in all 5 versions. The version I'm sharing here was our favorite, #5.
Pisco Sour Controversy
Strong opinions rage all over the internet about various elements of a Pisco Sour. Peruvians take their Pisco Brandy and Pisco Sours very seriously.
First, lemon juice vs lime juice. If you've ever been to Peru, you know that lemons are difficult if not impossible to find there, even in the upscale Miraflores neighborhood of Lima. Instead there is a Peruvian fruit that resembles limes called limón, the Spanish word for lemon. All my research indicated they are unique in their flavor profile, and their flavor is more rounded and broad than even our Key Limes (although Andina's uses a final squeeze of key limes as a finishing touch).
Second, both Peru and Chile claim to be the original producers of Pisco Brandy and both claim Pisco as their national drink. Peruvian Pisco is not the same as the sweeter Chilean version. The Pisco I use is Pisco Portón, Mosto Verde, produced in Peru by the Hacienda La Caravedo since 1684. Mosto Verde is one of four categories of Pisco that is commercially sold.
Third, many people swear by Amargo Chuncho Bitters (click on the above photo to check it out), and say it's worth the effort of procuring. I, however, took the easier route of using Angostura Bitters, because I had a bottle handy. However, I confess I am curious about Amargo, and am ordering a bottle to compare them.
My Pisco Sour Cocktail, Inspired by Andina
So, in respect to the strength of national pride for authentic Pisco Sours on the part of Peruvians, and likely Chileans, I will represent this Pisco Sour as inspired by the fabulous Andina (Peruvian) Restaurant in Portland.
Tips for Making a Pisco Sour Cocktail
Even if you're making only one, I recommend using an immersion blender. All the recipes I saw had you shaking them up in a martini shaker thing, but (a) I don't have one and (b) when I tried to duplicate it using a jar, it wore me out, and the foam was unimpressive.
My immersion blender came with a deep plastic cup, and I found it perfect for making these cocktails. It only took 10 – 15 seconds, depending on the size of my batch.
You can make them ahead, earlier in the day, for a party and keep it refrigerator in the cup that comes with the hand blender. When guests start arriving, whip it up with the hand blender and pour into individual glasses. Finish with the bitters at the very end, just before serving.
To make a nice swirl on the top of the drink, drag the pointy end of a knife through the droplet of bitters in a swirl.
Mine is an older version of this one, made by KitchenAid (pictured below). Seriously, you can't go wrong with KitchenAid. It's great for all kinds of sauces, smoothies, and soups, and has lasted for years.
Pisco Sour Cocktail
- 5 oz Pisco brandy, chilled I used Mosto Verde
- 2 oz lime juice, chilled
- 2 oz simple syrup, chilled essentially 1 cup water + 1 cup sugar heated until sugar melts into the water
- 2 large egg whites
- 1 drop Angostura bitters
- Place the Pisco brandy in the freezer for at least 2 hours to chill.
- Place the lime juice and simple sugar in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to chill.
- Combine the Pisco, lime juice, simple syrup and egg whites into the deep cup that comes with a hand blender. Blend on high for 15 seconds.
- Pour into glasses, spooning the fluffy egg whites on top of each glass.
- Finish with a drop of Angostura bitters, or use up to 3 drops according to preference. Drag the point of a knife through the drops to create a swirl. Serve cold with a slice of lime or key lime, if available.
If you're looking for more end of summer drink ideas, here are some great ones that have been solid gold at my parties:
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