Words by Simon Difford
Pisco is the national spirit of both Peru and Chile and in both countries the iconic cocktail is the pisco sour, which, understandably in such hot climes, tends to be served blended with crushed ice. Here in Britain and other less clement lands we tend to prefer our sours shaken – the pisco sour included. But there's so much more to be made with this wonderfully aromatic spirit.
There seem few flavours that pisco doesn't mix well with but its aromatics combine brilliantly with tropical fruit - especially pineapple. You'll see from the recipes below that with pineapple and pisco I favour adding a touch of clove spice.
When reaching for a bottle of cognac, consider also grabbing a bottle of pisco and try combining both brandies in a cocktail. You'll find calvados and pisco also mix harmoniously. Being a brandy made from grapes wine and vermouth are also obvious choices and as you'll see below, I tend to favour sauvignon blanc.
Like tequila and mezcal, pisco represents bottled sunshine and there's something of the sun's energy evident in its taste and vibrancy. This is most apparent in the fabulously aromatic Peruvian single varietal piscos made from the Italia grape and I particularly recommend the mosto-verde bottling by BarSol. The combined energy and aromatics of pisco cry out tiki perhaps more than even rum.
It would be remiss to proclaim the virtues of pisco cocktails without including links to our in-depth pages on the origins of both the Pisco Sour and the Pisco Punch but for those simply after pisco based cocktail recipes I recommend the following:
With: Pisco, red grapes, lemon juice, sugar and champagne.
We say: Dry Biscuity champagne adds sparkle to sweet red grapes while Pisco fortifies and adds complex distilled grape flavours.
Club Cocktail (my recipe)
With: Pisco, cognac (on which this drink is based), maraschino liqueur, pineapple juice and Peychaud's.
We say: Cognac and pisco brandies with maraschino and pineapple adding fruity tropical freshness and a foamy head.
With: Pisco, Byrrh Grand Quinquina and grapefruit bitters.
We say: The aromatics of the distilled wine of pisco combine harmoniously with the aromatised wine's sweet grapey notes.
With: Pisco, Grand Marnier, apricot brandy, lime cordial and pomegranate syrup.
We say: This dry, amber coloured, fruity cocktail carries a pisco punch.
With: Pisco, mint, lime juice and sugar.
We say: A short, pisco based Mojito.
Paddington Bear Martini
With: Pisco, marmalade, dry gin and bianco vermouth.
We say: Tangy orange marmalade with gin and pisco rounded with bianco vermouth.
Peruvian Elder Sour
With: Pisco, elderflower liqueur and lime juice.
We say: This tasty sour combines the aromatics of pisco and elderflower in an intriguing variation on the Margarita. Consider smoothing with fresh egg white.
With: Pisco, sweet vermouth and sugar syrup.
We say: Grape combines with fortified wine in a sublime after-dinner sipper.
With: Pisco, cloves, mead, pineapple juice, Licor 43 and pine liqueur.
We say: Honey and pineapple, laced with aromatic pisco and spiced with clove.
With: Pisco, cognac, white crème de cacao and sugar.
We say: Use a great pisco and you'll have a wonderfully complex drink.
With: Pisco, lime juice, sugar and soda water.
We say: The most aromatic and flavoursome of the Collins family.
With: Pisco, white crème de cacao, sauvignon blanc wine, fino sherry and water.
We say: This pisco-based spirituous stirred drink was inspired by memories of Nestle's Milkybars. The sweetness of White crème de cacao is balanced by dry sherry and the acidity of Sauvignon Blanc wine adds grassy floral notes.
Pisco Punch (my recipe)
With: Pisco, clove, pineapple juice, orange juice, lemon juice, sugar and champagne.
We say: A tangy, balanced combination of rich flavours. The quality of pisco used is crucial to the success of a Pisco Punch.
Pisco Punch (Micheli's recipe)
With: Pisco, orange slices, pineapple wedges, pineapple marinade and soda water.
We say: The pisco punch is very fruity and slightly on the sweet side but is so tasty that it justifies its legendary reputation.
Pisco Punch (Prosser's recipe)
With: Pisco, white grapes, pineapple juice and absinthe.
We say: Grape juice and aromatic grape-based spirit paired with pineapple and the merest hint of absinthe.
Pisco Sour (my recipe)
With: Pisco, lime juice, sugar, egg white and orange flower water.
We say: Traditionally this drink is blended with crushed ice, but I prefer my Pisco Sours served straight up or on the rocks. Either way, it's best served in an old-fashioned glass stored in the fridge or freezer.
With: Pisco, cloves, elderflower liqueur, pineapple juice and pink grapefruit juice.
We say: Tangy, fruity and packed with flavor. Clove spice, fragrant floral pisco and elderflower with a hint of sweet pineapple and sour grapefruit.
Reggatta de Blanc
With: Pisco, calvados, sauvignon blanc wine, Suze and sugar.
We say: Dry and boozy.
With: Pisco, Suze, pineapple juice, Sauvignon Blanc wine and sugar.
We say: Pisco, pineapple and Sauvignon Blanc wine are a match made in heaven, while gentian liqueur provides a complex underlying gentian bittersweet notes.
With: Pisco, calvados, elderflower liqueur and sauvignon blanc wine.
We say: Whiter than white yet mysterious. As for the taste, white wine acidity balances rich elderflower with spirituous lacing from apple brandy and aromatic grapy pisco.
With: Pisco, calvados, cognac. Licor 43 and dry vermouth.
We say: A trio of brandies with a dash of herbal vanilla, rounded with vermouth.
With: Pisco, elderflower liqueur, pink grapefruit juice, lemon juice and soda water.
We say: Light, balanced and refreshing. The pisco character shines through.
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