The Pisco Sour is perhaps the most well known of Pisco cocktails, at least here in America. In case you’re not familiar, Pisco is a grape brandy made primarily in Chile and Peru. This type of brandy provides earthy flavors and a smooth taste, kind of like if brandy and wine had a baby.
It’s definitely said that this famous cocktail encapsulates the spirit of South America (more on that below). With its smooth and tangy flavors, this classic cocktail has become a beloved drink around the world over the years.
Pisco Sour History
It’s thought that the origins of the Pisco Sour can be traced back to the early 20th century in Peru, where it was crafted as a testament to the country’s national spirit, Pisco. But of course– as with most vintage cocktails– the precise history of this drink is often debated, with claims of its creation attributed to various Peruvian bartenders and even to the country of Chile.
Regardless of its exact origin, the Pisco Sour has become a symbol of Peruvian pride and an ambassador of the country’s culinary culture. Today, it is celebrated as one of the most popular and distinctive cocktails in the world.
However, while Chilean Pisco isn’t quite as popular here in the States as Peruvian Pisco, it certainly is also a source of pride for the country of Chile. In fact, this delicious sour cocktail is the national cocktail of both Peru and Chile, making its historical roots even more murky.
Pisco Sour Cocktail Ingredients
This classic cocktail recipe is somewhat similar to a Whiskey Sour (both being in the sour cocktail family, of course) with a few key differences– including the base spirit. But it’s a pretty simple cocktail with only 5 ingredients. To create this national drink of Peru & Chile, gather the following ingredients:
- Pisco: This base liquor is an aromatic grape-based spirit produced in Peru and Chile– and it’s the star of the cocktail! Since you’re mixing it, it doesn’t have to be top shelf (like, say, Caravedo Mosto Verde), but we still suggest opting for a premium Pisco like the Peruvian Pisco Santiago Queriolo Acholado over the ever-common & cleverly-named Macchu Pisco. (Note: It’s less common to find Chilean Pisco from Muscat grapes in local liquor stores in souther CA, so we’ve only tried it with the Peruvian version, which comes from a range of grape varietals.)
- Fresh Lime Juice: Traditionally, key lime juice is used for a true Peruvian drink, but a basic Mexican lime will do since they’re much easier to find in the States. Make sure to squeeze the juice from fresh citrus rather than use store bought juice in order to provide the signature tang and acidity that balances the sweetness of the cocktail.
- Simple Syrup: A mixture of equal parts white sugar and water, simple syrup adds a touch of sweetness and helps harmonize the flavors.
- Egg White: The addition of egg white gives this Peruvian drink its velvety texture and creates a frothy, cloud-like foam on top. It’s a beautiful canvas for the garnish of bitters that will float across the top. Check out this article if you want to know more about adding egg whites to cocktails.
- Angostura Bitters: A few drops of bitters as a finishing touch add depth and complexity to the cocktail– and create a stunning visual! (It’s also functional in masking some of the smell from the egg whites.)
The result is a creamy texture with bittersweet notes. And if you’re wondering what sets Pisco apart from American brandy, the main difference is that Pisco is only distilled once rather than going through double distillation, and water is not added after this process.
How to Make a Pisco Sour Cocktail
Creating an authentic Pisco Sour is pretty easy; as with any traditional egg white sour, the most intimidating part is probably the egg itself. When using this ingredient in cocktails, you’ll do a dry shake without ice first before filling your shaker with ice.
Check out the video below to see Chris make this Peruvian cocktail, and make sure to watch all the way through for variations! (Don’t worry, we’ll cover that below, too.)
Making a Pisco Sour?
Here’s the Boston Shaker I recommend:
Stainless Steel Boston Shaker Set
This is my ideal Boston shaker combination. The larger tin is weighted to add rigidity but the smaller is unweighted to give the best seal. We designed this shaker to be the perfect shaker for the busiest bartender – durable, easy to use, and easy to open every time (without losing a drop!)
Pisco Sour Variations & Other Pisco Cocktails
While the classic Pisco Sour is wonderful as is– I mean, it is the favorite drink option of not one but two countries– here are a few variations of this Peruvian and Chilean drink:
- Pisco Sours with Fruit: Muddle fresh fruits like mango, strawberry, or passion fruit in the shaker to add a burst of tropical fruits to your cocktail. Instead of muddling, you could also cut the lime juice with another fruit juice of your choice; one of the more popular choices is passion fruit juice, which sounds absolutely delicious!
- Pisco Sour with Amargo Chuncho Bitters: Substitute Angostura bitters with Amargo Chuncho bitters, a Peruvian bitters known for its spiced, herbal, and floral flavors. Subbing in this bitters (if you can find it) helps make the drink much more authentic!
- Spicy Pisco Sour: Infuse your cocktail with a kick of heat by muddling a few slices of jalapeño– or even by adding a dash of hot sauce!
- Pisco Sour with Aromatic Pisco: Experiment with different varieties of Pisco– such as an aromatic Pisco made with Muscat grapes from Chile– to bring unique floral and fruity notes to your drink.
- Create a vegan version of this mixed drink with 3/4 ounce of aquafaba (chickpea juice) rather than egg whites.
- Make it with fresh lemon juice instead! This is a popular variation, although fresh lime juice is more common and traditional.
Other popular drinks with Pisco include these unique & yummy cocktails:
- Pisco Punch: Probably the next best-known Pisco drink after the sour, this punch mixes the spirit with fresh lemon juice, pineapple syrup, simple syrup, and orange bitters.
- El Capitán: A very straightforward mixed drink, the El Capitán combines Pisco with sweet vermouth and two dashes aromatic bitters.
- Peruvian Elder Sour: Putting together Pisco, elderflower liqueur, and fresh lime juice, this cocktail offers balanced sweet-and-sour flavors with floral notes.
- Use Becherovka: If you watch the video, you can see Chris make this richer version of the cocktail. Drop your base spirit to 1 1/4 ounce Pisco, add 3/4 ounce Becherovka liquor, 3/4 ounce simple syrup, 1 ounce lime juice, and egg white.
An Authentic Version of a Pisco Sour
The Pisco Sour is a testament to the rich cultural heritage of Peru & Chile– plus, it’s so unique and tastes really, really good! With its blend of Pisco, fresh lime juice, and subtle sweetness, this iconic cocktail really balances itself in a fun, surprising way.
Do you have another favorite recipe that uses this Chilean or Peruvian spirit? Definitely leave us a comment and let us know what you think of this refreshing drink and if you have another favorite cocktail with a Pisco base!
- 2 oz Pisco Brandy
- 1 oz Fresh Lime Juice
- 3/4 oz Simple Syrup
- 3/4 oz Egg Whites about 1 egg white
- 5 dashes Angostura Bitters for garnish
- Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker without ice and "dry shake." (Shake without ice first.)
- Add ice to shaker, and shake the ingredients with ice for 10-15 seconds.
- Double strain with a Hawthorne cocktail strainer and fine strainer into a pre-chilled coupe glass (or Nick & Nora).
- Garnish by dropping a few drops of bitters into the egg white foam and dragging a toothpick through the drops.