Pisco Sour

cocktail pisco sour

My first encounter with the Pisco Sour occurred in the vibrant country of Chile, where this cocktail is ubiquitously served, and it still evokes fond memories of my South American adventures. The Pisco Sour reigns as the most beloved cocktail in South America, yet it stands at the center of a spirited debate between Peru and Chile, just like its core spirit – Pisco (for more insights on Pisco, delve into this article).

This delightful concoction belongs, as its name suggests, to the venerable sour family of cocktails that have graced bars since the 19th century. Sours can trace their ancestry back to punch, a beloved party beverage dating to the early 17th century. Punch, often associated with mixed drinks combining alcohol, fruit juice, or fruit pieces, is traditionally served in an expansive punch bowl. Sours, one might say, are punch’s à la carte offspring, tailored for individual consumption. These libations find their early mention in the seminal book “How to Mix Drinks” penned by Jerry Thomas, an iconic figure in American mixology, published in 1862. Sours are characterized by their composition of a base spirit, fruit juice, and sweetener. Initially, these comprised just a hard liquor, lemon or lime juice, and sweetener. However, as the cocktail landscape evolved, the spectrum of ingredients, in both the juice and alcohol categories, broadened, often accommodating additional elements. Numerous sours, including the Pisco Sour, are enshrined in the official repertoire of the International Bartender Association (IBA).

The Pisco Sour made its debut in the early 1920s, thanks to Victor Vaughen Morris, an American expatriate who transitioned from his role as a cashier for an American railway company to the proprietor of Morris’ Bar in Lima, Peru. This establishment swiftly gained popularity among English-speaking expatriates and affluent Peruvians. Morris’s Pisco Sour was a modification of the well-known Whiskey Sour, a cocktail traditionally comprising whiskey, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Morris infused local flair into the drink, substituting whiskey with Pisco and lemon with lime. The original Pisco Sour recipe entailed blending Pisco, lime juice, and simple syrup over ice. In the late 1920s, Peruvian bartender Mario Bruiget, who had worked at Morrison’s Bar, elevated the cocktail to its contemporary form, incorporating egg whites and Angostura bitters, a Venezuelan bitter. When Morrison’s Bar shuttered due to its owner’s declining health, Mario Bruiget continued to serve his refined Pisco Sour variation in a prominent Lima hotel. Other bartenders from Morrison’s Bar ventured to different locales, each playing a role in disseminating the Pisco Sour to the world. The cocktail made its way to California in the 1930s and to New York in the 1960s. Today, the Pisco Sour enjoys global acclaim, and Peru cherishes it as a loving but somewhat proud mother of her celebrated child.

In Peru, the first Saturday of February has been designated National Pisco Sour Day since 2004. In 2007, Pisco Sour earned the official title of a cultural treasure of Peru.

Chile, however, much like its stance on Pisco, regards the Pisco Sour as its own national libation and even lays claim to its invention in Chile a half-century earlier than in Peru. While the authenticity of this story remains unverified, it hasn’t deterred their claim.
Three principal recipes of Pisco Sour are presently recognized:

1.Peruvian: Comprising Peruvian Pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, egg whites, and Angostura bitters.
2.Chilean: Featuring Chilean Pisco (unaged in oak), lime juice, powdered sugar (typically excluding egg whites and Angostura bitters).
3.IBA Recipe: Any Pisco, lemon juice, simple syrup, and egg whites.

For my version, I’ve crafted a hybrid drawing from the three main recipes, utilizing Chilean Pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, and egg white.

In addition, various deviations of the Pisco Sour incorporate alternative fruit juices and distinct sweeteners.



-60 ml (2 oz) Pisco
-30 ml (1 oz) Fresh Lime Juice
-15 ml (0.5 oz) Simple Syrup (the recipe below)
-1 Raw Egg White

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice cubes. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled glass. Optionally, garnish with a few drops of Angostura bitters.

Traditionally served in an old-fashioned or goblet glass, it’s increasingly presented in a champagne flute.

Simple syrup:
Bring one cup of water to a boil, stirring in one cup of plain granulated sugar. Lower the heat and stir continuously until the sugar completely dissolves. Let it cool, pour into a clean glass jar, and store in the refrigerator.

The Pisco Sour is a vibrant journey into the heart of South American culture, a quintessential representation of the region’s zest and flair for life.

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