Pisco sours are a source of great national pride (and rivalry!) for two South American countries – Peru and Chile. Pisco sours are thick, foamy cocktails made by combining pisco (a distilled grape brandy) with lime juice, simple syrup, and an egg white – topped with a few dashes of Angostura bitters. There has been a long-standing, heated debate between the two countries on who created “the original” pisco sour.
Peru claims that the cocktail was first made in Lima around 100 years ago while Chile holds strong that they were the first to issue commercial trademarks and legal recognition of the spirit. The regulations for what constitutes “pisco” in Peru and Chile both overlap and differ making things more complicated. Peruvian pisco has much stricter regulations while there are some leniences with Chilean pisco.
Grapes: Quebranta, Negra Criolla, Uvina, Mollar, Moscatel, Torontel, Italia and Albilla. Majority of Peruvian pisco is made solely from or includes Quebranta.
Aging: Peru does not allow pisco to be aged in wood, providing a pristine quality allowing more of the true grape flavors to come through.
Bottling: No additives are allowed, even water. Peruvian pisco must be bottled at the proof at which it comes off the still.
Grapes: Muscat, Pedro Jimenez, and Torontel
Aging: Similar to cognacs, Chilean pisco is permitted to be aged in wood barrels, giving it an array of golden colors with vanilla and maple syrup aromas and flavors.
Bottling: Water may be added to Chilean pisco to bring it down to 40% abv. Some are bottled at higher proofs though.
Clearly, the tastes of the two piscos will be different due to the aging processes, alcohol levels, and grapes used, making for very different pisco sour cocktails.
But honestly, the only thing that really matters is if you enjoy the taste! Both are refreshing and warrant at least a try. To assist you in your endeavors, here’s a typical pisco sour cocktail recipe that you can make at home:
Pisco Sour Recipe
- 2 oz pisco
- 0.5 oz simple syrup
- 1 oz lime juice
- 1 egg white
- 2 to 3 dashes Angostura bitters
Shake all but the bitters in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a rocks or low-ball glass and add a few dashes of bitters. Garnish with a lime or lemon segment.
Or if you’re someone who likes to try things directly from the source, you have ample opportunity to try a pisco sour on both of our South American tours – the Peru Food Tour and the Chile & Argentina Wine Tour. Take your pick!