HOW WE LIKE IT UP
- 1.5 oz Barsol Pisco
- .75 oz Fresh lime juice
- .75 oz Simple syrup
- 1 egg white
- Dash of Angostura bitters
Dry shake ingredients, then add ice, shake, and strain. Garnish with drops of bitters on the foam.
HOW WE LIKE IT FROZEN
- 2 oz Pisco Porton
- 1 oz Fresh lime juice
- 1 oz Simple syrup
- 1 egg white
- Dash of Angostura bitters
Add ingredients to blender and blend on high for 15 seconds. Add one large or two small ice cubes, pulse 5 times, pour then garnish with drops of bitters on the foam.
Pisco sours hold a special place in my pantheon of favorites. A few of my favorite nights involve drinking them with friends old and new.
My first visit to Wellington, New Zealand was all about getting a chance to visit the Hawthorn Lounge. The Hawthorn’s menu was fantastic but I’d been craving a Pisco Sour for days, so I ordered one. The owner looked at me seriously and said, “I’m happy to make you one but I need to inform you we have a house rule of one Pisco sour per person… ever. Pisco is incredibly hard to get here and we have a bottle of great Peruvian Pisco but we have to use it wisely.” Minutes later I was sipping a delicious sour, awkwardly savoring this one and only sour.
I also recall a few nights at Rye in Baltimore where a Pisco sour was on the menu. The bartender was excited because no one was ordering them so my friend Carl and I decided that had to change ASAP. A few hours later we stumbled into the Baltimore night full and satisfied. Good times.
INGREDIENTS & TASTE
Pisco is a clear or lightly cloudy grape brandy from Peru and Chile with a lot of history and dozens of amazing variations. In the US, small batch Pisco can be hard to come by unless you live in a city with an incredibly well connected buyer or a friend who brings a bottle or two back from a trip. However, there are plenty of bigger brands worth getting. Given these are larger batch, we didn’t find dramatic variations in the flavors (as we’re assured exist in smaller brands), but we found something to love in each we tried. We settled on Barsol, Machu Pisco, and Pisco Porton.
Machu Pisco was light and almost grassy underneath the grape flavor. It was by far the easiest drinking by itself, and I can’t wait to use it in a punch. I’ve heard wonderful stories of infusing it as well and plan to give it a try later this year.
Barsol had a darker sweetness more reminiscent of banana or a caramelized sugar. Truthfully it’s the Pisco I’m most used to and associate with a sour. Those notes of banana and the feel of the egg white are the components I savor when sipping.
We were pleasantly surprised with Pisco Porton. It has the same alcohol content as the others but out of the bottle it smelled like it had been boosted a few percentage points. The nose is much drier and it took a second or two for the grape to pop up. Sipping it straight is all brandy and far more burn than the other two. However, that strength of flavor made amazing cocktails - especially the frozen variation we wound up loving.
The part that tends to wig people out is a drink with egg white in it. Over the years sours of all sorts went from featuring egg whites to those simply with sour mix and a prayer. Although I’ve heard some bars won’t use egg whites because it increases insurance premiums. I can certainly understand it from that perspective, especially with food allergies being more common. Using egg whites in a drink changes it and gives it the mouth feel that’s oh so important for the final results. You can absolutely make this drink without them, but you should use egg whites if, you can.
We went into playing around with Pisco Sours thinking the most important decision would be the brand of Pisco. A few rounds in we realized the choice of lemon or lime juice had a bigger role to play. We wound up liking lemon juice with Barsol, lime juice with Porton, and a mix with Machu Pisco. In the end we suggest you try your own variations, you might be surprised.
Then we went down a delicious rabbit hole when we realized how good a Pisco Sour made in the blender can be. Friends who’d been to Peru told us stories of slushy Pisco Sours that were perfect for the afternoon heat. We started with the recipe Pisco Porton recommended, but it used so much ice it was almost impossible to strain especially with the bar-sized ice cubes we use.) We use less ice and don’t strain, so there are small bits of ice, but it means a super cold drink and it doesn’t cut the flavor of the Pisco. Bonus: If you’re making rounds at home it’s a lot easier to build in the blender after a few rounds.
Sweet: A little
Bitter: A sliver of bitter from the bitters
Umami: The egg white gives the drink that mouth feel and ‘mmm’ that sours offer.
If it’s a sound it’s the high notes of a flute floating through the mountain air and hitting your ears just as it breaks.
When making it at home up we’re fans of the dry shake - putting all the ingredients in the shaker before adding ice to emulsify the egg the white and get a nice foamy head. After a dry shake we toss in the biggest ice cube on hand then shake and strain. Adding a dash of Angostura at this stage will make sure the flavor spreads in the drink.
If you’re building in the blender we vary slightly from Pisco Porton's recommendation by using one large ice cube at the end for the pulse and leaving the ice in. We don’t mind a tiny bit of ice to lend a hint of the slushy texture folks spoke of wistfully from their vacation drinking.
The biggest challenge with a Pisco Sour is learning how to make patterns with the Angostura bitters on the foam. It takes a lot of time to learn how to make something artful. I try three drops and hope for the best.