BREAKING NEWS Traffic alert: Wreck causes lane closures, delays on Jordan Lane in Huntsville Full Story

Tale of a 'tail: The pisco sour

Chile and Peru used to be...

Posted: Oct 2, 2018 2:59 PM
Updated: Oct 2, 2018 2:59 PM

Chile and Peru used to be friends. Both stretched along the western coastal edge of South America. Chile even helped its northern neighbor win independence from Spain's monarchy in the early 1800s.

But since the contentious War of the Pacific in 1879, the two countries have been bitterly divided over border disputes, soccer rivalries, various perceived slights and -- perhaps closest to the hearts of both peoples -- the invention of the South American spirit pisco, and its most perfect mixological expression, the pisco sour.

Alcoholic beverages

Beverages

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Chile

Consumer products

Continents and regions

Food and drink

Kinds of foods and beverages

Latin America

Peru

South America

The Americas

Many historians believe that pisco, an unaged grape brandy, was first made in Peru, a stance validated by the European Commission's decision in 2013 to grant Peru claim to geographical origin of the distilled spirit.

But that has hardly settled the debate.

Last year, Pablo Lacoste, a professor at the University of Santiago de Chile, and a group of colleagues issued a report arguing that Chile had the first commercial trademarks and legal recognition of the spirit. He's also argued that the proofs Peru have used are false or misunderstood.

Taking the wrong side in either country can lead to shouting matches.

At stake in the hot-blooded dispute is not merely the economic benefits accrued to the county which can boast place of origin -- something the vignerons of Champagne, France, could tell you about -- but a sense of national pride and identity.

Pisco is "like a treasure map to penetrate the depths of history," says Lacoste -- a deep vein connecting generations.

For Peruvians and Chileans, pisco is often bound up with some of the earliest memories of family and culture. Lacoste's own preoccupation with the spirit began at age 18, when he traveled to Chile from Argentina on vacation and sipped piscolas -- the then-fashionable highball -- on the hot, wave-swept beaches of Viña del Mar.

For pisco enthusiast and Peruvian chef Nico Vera, author of the blog Pisco Trail, the initial encounter occurred at an even tenderer age. He had his first taste of pisco at around 12, when he mistook a pitcher of pisco sour that his father had mixed on a steamy summer day for lemonade.

"I served myself a tall glass and slammed it," says Vera. "It was extremely memorable: delicious, powerful, with a strong kick. It's been a sentimental favorite ever since."

The cocktail's origins

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the invention of the pisco sour -- at base, a trio of pisco, citrus and sweetener -- has also been a matter of contention between Peru and Chile.

At one point a theory began circulating that the cocktail had been created in the Chilean city of Iquique in 1872 by a British-born man, Elliot Stubb. That idea has since largely been disproved, most vociferously by author Guillermo Toro-Lira.

Lacoste, however, points to an 1822 book which he argues contains a reference to a Chilean pisco sour.

Most accounts of the pisco sour date back to the American expat Victor V. Morris, whose popular Lima watering hole, Morris Bar (opened in 1916), provides us with the first widely publicized references to the pisco sour in the 1920s.

Employees who went on to work at other establishments in the city subsequently honed the drink and it went on to assume its modern incarnation: beautifully balanced, fluffy with egg white, splashed with bitters.

But even this origin story has been upended, with the discovery in recent years of a 1903 cookbook of Peruvian cuisine containing a recipe for a cocktail that we today would consider an egg-white pisco sour. It's unclear whether Morris might have come across this recipe, or created the drink himself as a variation on a whiskey sour.

Given the endless annals of disagreement over both the spirit and the drink, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that both in fact take different forms in Peru and Chile.

The two countries have varying requirements for the distillation of grapes used in pisco, resulting in often dramatically disparate flavor profiles.

Meanwhile, the typical Peruvian pisco sour is made with lime juice, egg white and bitters, while the traditional Chilean pisco sour often comes sans egg white or bitters and opts for lemon juice.

Katherine Hidalgo -- proprietor of Chipe Libre, the most serious pisco bar in Santiago, Chile -- finds the entire debate counterproductive. She serves brands from both countries.

"People continue to spend energy, resources and time discussing 'what is the real origin' and the world still does not really know pisco. With that, we lose all. Nobody wins."

Her advice? People on either side should drop the squabbling and just help "people fall in love with pisco, regardless of its origin."

A classic pisco sour is often love at first sip. Richly textured yet light on its feet, with vibrant lime citrus brightening the pisco's earthy fruit notes, it's a delectable aperitif which can also pair quite well with dinner, especially ceviche.

Try this standard recipe and use it for fuel in whatever long-standing debate rages over your family dinner table.

Pisco sour recipe

3 ounces pisco

1 ounce simple syrup

1 ounce lime juice

1 egg white

Angostura bitters

Cube ice

Combine the pisco, syrup, lime and egg white in a shaker and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Open the shaker, fill with ice and shake hard a second time for 8-10 seconds. Strain into a coupe or rocks glass and add a dash and/or dots of bitters to the surface.

Huntsville
Clear
76° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 76°
Florence
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 79°
Fayetteville
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 74°
Decatur
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 75°
Scottsboro
Few Clouds
77° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 78°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 90890

Reported Deaths: 1611
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson12039228
Mobile9170197
Montgomery6305147
Madison508227
Tuscaloosa398466
Baldwin326323
Shelby307532
Marshall298433
Unassigned281255
Lee251940
Morgan224315
Etowah195728
DeKalb171813
Elmore162637
Calhoun159012
Walker147464
Houston132712
Dallas129423
Russell12471
St. Clair123612
Limestone120813
Franklin120620
Cullman115711
Colbert110712
Lauderdale109512
Autauga103020
Escambia97915
Talladega92713
Jackson8704
Chambers82838
Tallapoosa82278
Dale78722
Butler75135
Blount7413
Chilton7226
Coffee7165
Covington71520
Pike6607
Barbour5635
Lowndes55824
Marion54724
Marengo52614
Clarke4879
Hale45726
Bullock44111
Winston43211
Perry4314
Wilcox4089
Monroe3954
Randolph39110
Bibb3813
Conecuh37210
Pickens3719
Sumter35918
Lawrence3240
Washington31412
Macon31113
Crenshaw2973
Choctaw27612
Cherokee2477
Henry2463
Greene24511
Geneva2420
Clay2235
Lamar2032
Fayette1765
Cleburne1211
Coosa922
Out of AL00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 112441

Reported Deaths: 1117
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby21728293
Davidson19563205
Rutherford615553
Hamilton572047
Knox410837
Williamson330822
Sumner321970
Unassigned29575
Out of TN278914
Wilson210222
Sevier17565
Montgomery175212
Bradley173910
Putnam160113
Trousdale15766
Robertson145919
Hamblen129713
Blount11817
Tipton11239
Maury10897
Washington10892
Madison92913
Bedford87711
Macon84113
Sullivan8339
Hardeman83011
Lake7560
Loudon6823
Bledsoe6741
Fayette6428
Anderson6307
Dickson6091
Gibson5902
Dyer5687
Cheatham5486
Rhea5111
Jefferson5083
McMinn49320
Lawrence4916
Henderson4690
Obion4534
Lauderdale4386
Carter4335
Warren4294
Coffee4212
Cocke4121
Hardin4097
Haywood4025
Roane3922
Cumberland3856
Smith3843
Monroe3779
Greene3765
Hawkins3694
Giles35410
McNairy3245
DeKalb3221
Weakley3103
Franklin2864
Marshall2662
Lincoln2551
Carroll2443
Crockett2364
Claiborne2350
Hickman2330
Henry2250
Campbell2211
Wayne2191
Marion2094
White2053
Chester1962
Grainger1790
Polk1793
Johnson1770
Decatur1692
Overton1391
Unicoi1390
Union1290
Cannon1260
Humphreys1093
Benton1081
Jackson1081
Scott1050
Grundy1022
Meigs990
Sequatchie960
Morgan911
Fentress760
Hancock761
Perry740
Stewart700
Clay640
Lewis581
Houston540
Moore440
Van Buren330
Pickett251

Community Events