Monday, 22 February 2010

Sour the Pisco Way ......

Wars have been fought over stupid things, although the war between Honduras and EL Salvador in 1969 does not rank as one of them. It was over football, and that is not silly.
I’m amazed a war hasn’t been fought between Chile and Peru over Pisco. Although they have had scuffles but that is over maritime rights, and not to be discussed here.
Now depending on whom you speak to, the best Pisco comes from either Peru or Chile. Peoples from both countries would rather loose a hand than say the other side had the best Pisco. What we know as Pisco today originated from Peru. (Let’s get that straight). In Pisco to be exact, if you believe the myths about its introduction into the Americas of the grape, by the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th Century.
People are divided on the quality of Pisco. Some say Peru has refined the grape to a quality liquor, whilst the Chilean version is a rough and ready version. Which may be true, as Peruvians have taken Pisco to their hearts, even having a Pisco Day.
But as with wine, terrior has a lot to do with the taste of the grape, plus also how the grapes are distilled. Both countries do this differently. They also drink it differently in both countries. The Pisco Sour we know today from both Chile and Peru taste as similar as chalk n cheese.
The Peruvian version is a little more refined as a cocktail than its Chilean counterpart. The inclusion of key limes, egg whites, sugar syrups and bitters make it a truly cosmopolitan cocktail. A delicious smooth frothy drink that goes down very very well. This I can acclaim to as I got through 6 in a Peruvian restaurant in Bogotá. (Nazca)
The Chilean Sour is as basic as it gets. 3 parts Pisco to one part lemon or lime, plus sugar to taste. Can’t get much more basic than that. Tastes great though, but it’s not a cocktail, and to be honest I wouldn’t order either in a bar somewhere, much prefer a vodka martini or a rum and coke.
But whilst in Chile, do as the Chileans do. Amazingly it took us till we were in Valparaiso to sample the delights of the Chilean Pisco sour.

First stop was Cinzano, a bar well over a hundred years old. So were most of the staff there also. The resident band, whose lead singer was 85 were churning out classic hits like “Quizas, quizas, quizas”. Which is about a horny man trying to worm his way into a girls knickers. With all his attempts to do this, all she says is Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. Frustrating the poor man in the process. Well wouldn’t we all be.

The drink was a delight to drink, right balance of Pisco and lemon juice so both worked in harmony with each other. It had been blended to give the impression of the inclusion of egg whites, but I never saw him put any in, contrary to Lina’s say so.
What does she know. We were given a bottle of really good Chilean Pisco by our all-knowledgeable friend on all things Chilean. Well she is from Chile, and her husband, my one stop for all things Russian. I must find out if he makes a white Russian. Or is this another invention and marketed by others.
I once was chief tester at a cocktail party, where everyone who came had to prepare their fave cocktails. Needless to say I was bladdered after a very short while, all due to some potent but fantastic White Russians.
Anyhows, back to the story of the Pisco. Lina was told you only use Pisco and lemon. 3:1, and sugar to taste. Lina being Lina and not a big drinker used 3 parts lemon and 1 part Pisco. Too lemony for me, and no wonder we had ¾ of a bottle left several months later. Cost us a fortune in lemons. She was rebuked and knows better now. It’s always more alcohol to juice. Mostly.

The other Pisco Sours we tasted were rather too lemony for my liking. Typical of restaurants to skimp on the Pisco. Tight wads. But all in all they got us drunk, so that’s what counts.
I will leave Chile and Peru to fight this one out. All I can hope for is that they continue to fight and improve their Piscos, letting us saviour the goodness.
This is one war I am thankful for.

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