What the Heck is a Pisco Sour?

Walter Rhein

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What is a Pisco Sour? Oh, you don’t know? Then, sir, or madam, I envy you. Because your first experience with the world’s greatest cocktail is still in your future, while mine is in the distant and ever more opaque past.

To put it simply, a Pisco Sour is formed when a fragment of cloud falls directly from heaven, is picked up by a mermaid, crushed to liquid by a unicorn, and served chilled in a glass with a splash of bitters on the top to keep it from rising back up to the eternal beyond.

A Pisco Sour is the drink that makes you say, “Whoa, why don’t we have Pisco in the United States?”

Seriously, Why Don’t We Have Pisco in the United States?

Pisco is a Peruvian brandy made by distilling fermented grapes. Pisco is exclusively Peruvian, although the Chileans, who are always envious of Peruvians, have a bottle of acrid, impotable kerosene that they insist must also be called ‘Pisco’ (which it is not).

Pisco is a pleasant alcohol that is kind of similar to the perfect mixture of lime, salt, and Tequila, but without all the messing around with licking the back of your hand and squeezing lime juice into your mouth. Also, you don’t get a hangover from it (I’m about 65 percent serious on that).

When you go to Peru you can buy a couple bottles of Pisco, and bring them back, although sometimes they ask you about it at immigration. I think you can bring two bottles, but don’t take my word for it, because it will be your butt in the detainment center. Also, you can’t bring back a guinea pig.

Actually, you can find Pisco in some places in the US, but check the label because if it says "Made in Chile" it ain't Pisco.

Peru's National Drink

Pisco Sour is Peru’s national drink, and it’s the only drink you should be drinking while you’re in Peru. When you work in Peru, it’s common to have a Pisco Sour at lunch, even if you’re a high school teacher (it makes teaching high school a lot more bearable).

The only excuse to not drink a Pisco Sour is because you’re drinking a Maracuya Sour. Maracuya is the Spanish word for passion fruit, and a Maracuya sour is a bit sweeter and smoother. But start with the Pisco Sour you newbies, the Maracuya is for the seasoned veterans like me.

There’s a truthful saying that encapsulates everything you need to know about Pisco Sours. “Pisco Sour, one is not enough and three is too many.” This sentiment is true, I know because I’ve had three (and about 65 percent of the time it is too many).

So, How Do You Make a Pisco Sour?

There are two schools of thought on Pisco Sour Preparation:

  1. Shaking
  2. Blending

Personally, I prefer shaking, it burns calories, and gets the party started. Also, the Pisco Sour tastes better, and the less energy you use, the more you hold off climate change. But yeah, go ahead and blend if you must.

The recipe is easy mix:

  1. 3 parts Pisco
  2. 1 part Jarabe de Goma
  3. 1 part lemon/lime juice
  4. 1 egg white
  5. Ice cubes

Then shake. Serve in short, squat, fat little glasses filled with ice. You can add bitters on the top if you want, but personally I don't (I lied about how the drink would float back to heaven before).

What the Heck Is Jarabe de Goma?

When you go to Peru to get pisco, bring back some Jarabe de Goma too. It's a sweet syrup kind of like corn syrup, but I've tried making Pisco Sours with Corn Syrup, and it doesn't work. If you can't get Jarabe de Goma just use sugar. I've never tried using maple syrup but if you're in Canada and insist on eating everything with Maple Syrup, it might work.

Why Is It Lemon/Lime?

Here's something weird about Peru, they call lemons limes, and limes lemon. I don't know why that is. It could be that in the USA they just bleach limes yellow, and then market them as lemons so they can charge more. It wouldn't be the first time somebody just invented something out of thin air to make a profit. If you're in the US, Key Limes seem to be the best choice for a Pisco Sour, but there's no real substitute for a Peruvian Lemon/Lime.

Mix it Up!

Feel free to do two parts Jarabe de Goma, or cut down to two parts Pisco if you want the drink sweeter. Use Passion fruit instead of Lime if you want a smoother taste. Personally, I'm planning on experimenting with Grapefruit Sour and Cranberry Sour. Basically, you can use anything with a sharp enough taste to block out the Pisco, but Pisco has a mild flavor, so the possibilities are endless.

Someday, It Will Be the Next Big Thing

Sooner or later Pisco Sour is going to go viral, and everybody in the US will make fools of themselves trying to get one; paying too much, and posting pictures all over social media of themselves drinking one. It's going to happen, Pisco Sours are so good it's inevitable. I'm actually surprised it hasn't happened already. People are dumb.

So start in with your Pisco Sour addiction today. Make one, make two, but stop before three. Experiment with flavors, stock up on Pisco, empty out all the canned food in your survival shelter, and put in Jarabe de Goma.

When the Pisco Sour apocalypse happens, you want to have supplies enough to last you to the end of days.

Remember, drink responsibly, and enjoy!

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI

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