Making pisco sours! (the Peruvian national cocktail)

Pisco – a Peruvian brandy – is the key ingredient of Peru’s national cocktail, the pisco sour. As a drink based on lime, sugar, and the local booze of choice, it’s not that different from Brazil’s caipirinha or Cuba’s mojito.

I learned how to make pisco sours from my cousin’s boyfriend Hugo, a former bartender. He whipped up a few batches so the whole family could raise a birthday toast together.

Of course, Hugo can just pour the ingredients into the blender without measuring. I’m not so advanced as that… had to come home and play with the recipe until I got the proportions figured out. Here’s what I came up with.

I had fun with the ice cubes. No, it doesn't take much to amuse me.

I had fun with my lime juice ice cubes. No, it doesn’t take much to amuse me.

Pisco: You’ll need to look for this at a specialty liquor store.
Sugar: I use simple syrup because I don’t love a bunch of sugar sitting undissolved in the bottom of the drink. Aim for about a cup and a quarter of sugar per cup of water.
Lime juice: Use key limes, aka Mexican limes, known in Peru as limón sutil. The larger Persian lime isn’t as strong. I went to the trouble of squeezing the limes the day before and making the juice into ice cubes, which worked great. They melted in the blender and chilled the drink.
Egg white: When the drink is shaken or blended, the egg white makes it frothy with a layer of foam on top.

I used a ratio of 4 oz pisco, 2 oz simple syrup, 2 oz lime juice, and 1 egg white or so. I love this balance, and so do my friends. But the recipes I see online go heavier on the pisco. The classic recipe is apparently a 3-1-1 ratio instead of my 2-1-1.

To make it, just combine the ingredients in the blender and mix until you’ve got a good layer of foam on top. Serve immediately while it’s still frothy, in tumblers, optionally over ice. If you leave some in the pitcher for a while, use the blender to froth it up again before serving.

A pretty great looking pisco sour. Photo credit: Dtarazona.

A pretty great looking pisco sour. This is more foam than I pour – but I’d still drink it. Photo credit: Dtarazona.

To get slightly more authentic, you have some options:

  1. Instead of white sugar, you can use raw sugar in the simple syrup.
  2. Or instead of simple syrup, you can use jarabe de goma, aka sirop de gomme, aka gum arabic syrup. This apparently makes the foam on top last better. (Although if you do it right, the drink disappears so fast it shouldn’t matter! That’s what happens at my house, anyways.)
  3. You can finish the drink with a few drops of angostura bitters on top of the foam.

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