Pisco: The Peruvian Charmer

Pete Capella
(Photo: )

There’s a new kid on the block that is finding his feet in the recent cocktail revolution. Wait a minute, we’ve seen that kid before. His name is Pisco and he’s pretty darn cool. As a matter of fact, he’s extremely tasty, comes in multiple forms and has been around for quite some time.

Pisco History

This history of pisco’s creation is incredibly interesting. Money is king and, as unfortunate as that may be, it always has been. Lucky for us, sometimes it spawns those without said money to display ingenuity and create amazing things. When the Spanish first settled in Peru, they brought with them grapevines from the Canary Islands. Unbeknownst to them, the soil in Peru combined with these vines would yield amazing grapes and even more amazing wine. The wine was so good that Spain’s wine exports began to suffer. Obviously, this did not sit well with the mother country and they declared a high tax on Peruvian wine. But, as we oft tend to do when presented with spending too much money, the colonists decided to find a loophole. When they traveled to South America from Spain they brought with them alembic stills and the knowledge of the art of distillation. That’s where simple math came in. Exceptional grapes plus copper still plus vast knowledge of distillation equaled a new, amazing alcohol. Thus, pisco was born.


Types of Pisco

There are eight grape varietals that are used in the making of pisco. Peruvian legislation explicitly defines which grape varieties may be use in order to maintain a distinct taste and high quality of Peruvian pisco. There are four aromatic varietals, with a very fruit forward taste and nose: Italia, Torontel, Moscatel and Albilla. And, there are four non-aromatic varietals, still full of grape flavor, but somewhat less so than the full aromatics. The non-aromatics are: Quebranta, Negra Criolla, Mollar and Uvina.

There are also three different types of pisco produced. A pisco made with just one grape varietal is defined as a Pisco Puro. Begin to blend the grapes and you wind up with a Pisco Acholado. You can also distill from a must in which the grapes have not been fully fermented. This leaves residual sugars and creates a sweeter style of pisco called a Pisco Mosto Verde.


Coming to America

Trade routes from South America brought ships from the port of Pisco, Peru up the west coast of the United States and to the city of San Francisco. San Fran bartenders embraced the spirit and, Pre-Prohibition, pisco was a prominent base for cocktails. Unfortunately, Prohibition essentially wiped pisco from the US map, as it was almost impossible to bootleg an alcohol requiring grapes from another continent. The last 10 to 15 years have brought about a cocktail resurgence that has embraced the old San Francisco spirits, and with it comes the reemergence of pisco.

Check out some Savory pisco recipes:

Pisco Sour

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