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Pisco Sour

by on February 2011

The class of drinks called “sours” are pretty common. The general recipe is spirit, lemon/lime, sugar, egg white and sometimes bitters. The Whisky Sour is a classic sour, which is probably the most commonly ordered in North America. But you can have a brandy sour, a Midori sour or a Pisco Sour. Pisco is the national spirit of Chile / Peru and they are currently still fighting over ownership. Aside from the politics, the Pisco Sour has become a trendy cocktail. It still follows the basic sour formula, but because Pisco is a grape distillate, the flavour is different which seems to intrigue people. Plus raw egg whites are always an interesting edition to a cocktail.

My first introduction to Pisco was years ago when I took up bartending. One of the barbacks was from Chile and we often discussed things that were different between the two countries. Wine was a common topic and spirits were also discussed. After a few weeks Gabriel (Gabe) told me about this very popular drink in Chile called a Pisco Sour. He gave me very detailed instructions on how to make them and even told me what brands of Pisco to buy. The one he recommended was Pisco Control Reservado which is an 80 proof Pisco. It seemed like a good drink, so I sought out a bottle and luckily found a bottle at the LCBO of all places.

I have whipped up a few Pisco Sours since then and they are a truly enjoyable drink. Pisco Sours don’t have the sharp edge that a whisky sour has, so you can drink more than two. They are also more refreshing than a whisky sour, so on a hot summer day these drinks can go down very nicely. There really isn’t a suitable substitute for Pisco, so unless you can find some, the drink won’t be the same.

To make this drink properly, the trick is to get a good frothiness and the only way to do it is using an egg white. I personally use raw egg whites at home and powdered egg whites at the bar, which you can order online or from your local health food or cake decorating store. There are a couple of rules to follow if you use powdered egg whites in your Pisco Sour. First, you need to give powdered egg whites a moment to rehydrate, so add a teaspoon or two to a cocktail shaker and then add 3/4 oz of water, stir and let rest while you gather everything else. If speed is important, hit it with a stick blender. Also, never, ever add the pisco, or any alcohol, directly to the egg white powder, it will turn into some kind of polymer chunk! The juice from the lemon is ok. Other than that, egg whites are what make the Pisco Sour, or any sour cocktail for that matter.

Pisco Sour Recipepisco sour

1½ oz Pisco
1 oz Simple Syrup
1 oz Lemon / Lime Juice
½ Egg White (1 tsp powder)
Dash Angostura Bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously until the drink becomes frothy. Strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice.

According to some traditions, this drink is blended with ice in a blender. But most bartenders hate blenders, so shaking the hell out of the drink is a much better idea.