Some compare the South American spirit to grappa, because both are distilled from grapes. Others relate it to tequila, as it often has similar herbal, earthy flavors. The truth is, comparisons to other liquors often fall flat because pisco has its own unique personality. We tasted through 25 different piscos, exploring what makes the category so wild and wonderful. Here are our 10 favorites.
'Pisco' on Serious Eats
This cocktail, created by John Hogan of Lincoln Restaurant and Teddy & the Bully Bar in Washington, DC, is an autumnal take on a pisco sour, made without eggwhite.
A pisco based negroni from Jeff Faile of Fiola in Washiongton, DC.
Shots! Shots! Shots! These are often the words that get the party started...and lead to countless bad decisions and lost memories. The trouble is that not all shots are created equal. Some go down as easy as pie while others burn and burn. The Prairie Fire shot is one of those dangerous shots, commonly constructed with cheap tequila enlivened by Tabasco sauce. But despite its fiery reputation, the Prairie Fire can be corralled into a balanced—and delicious—craft cocktail. Here's how.
This sweet and spicy cocktail packs a fiery punch but won't overwhelm your tastebuds.
Pisco is having a moment in the States, but to many people, it's still just the stuff of pisco sours and not much else. At New York Peruvian restaurant La Mar Cebicheria, that's not the case at all. Come meet all 13 of their pisco cocktails, from the classic pisco sour to a pisco-based take on the Negroni, in ample portions and dressed in vivid hue.
Rich hot chocolate with orange, Grand Marnier, and pisco—like a foil-wrapped chocolate orange, but better.
A sweeter cousin to the common (and more sour) Eureka lemon, Meyer lemons are differentiated by their thin, smooth, slightly more orange-colored rind. With a more delicate, floral flavor, Meyer lemons are an easy way to make a common lemon-based cocktail a little more special.
Pisco is grape brandy that hails from Chile and Peru. Like many classic punch recipes, Yusho's Pisco Punch includes tea—a sencha infused with coconut and pineapple, also a prominent flavor in the drink's gomme syrup.
This pisco based cocktail from Matthew Campbell of Clock Bar in San Francisco gets a seasonal sweetness from riesling and fresh pears.
This pisco cocktail from Dan Perrigan has the refreshing lemon hit of a pisco sour but plays up the spirit's complex sweetness with a vanilla syrup, with Cocchi Americano to balance it out.
Damson gin liqueur adds a fresh new flavor to this pisco sour from Aldea in NYC.
An effervescent cocktail made with fortified wine from Bryn Lumsden of the Rob Roy in Seattle.
This cocktail from the summer menu at The Trilby in New York City is tropical but not too sweet—drink it at the beach, or drink it while wishing you were at the beach.
As I wrote on Wednesday, pisco is a type of South American brandy, and the pisco from Peru has a complex, earthy flavor and a heady floral perfume. The Pisco Sour is the most popular way of consuming pisco, and for decades it has been the signature drink of Peru.
It's too soon to tell if 2011 will be pisco's year, but expect to see this distinctive South American brandy, produced from several styles of grapes, popping up in new places.
Described by Rudyard Kipling as "compounded of the shavings of cherub's wings, the glory of a tropical dawn, the red clouds of sunset and the fragments of lost epics by dead masters," Pisco Punch is a legendary drink from late 19th century San Francisco.
The South American brandy known as pisco has waited a long time for its turn in the spotlight. Now, a new style developed by a San Francisco bartender is giving pisco a fresh chance to make a good first impression.