Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Battle Over Pisco - Sour Grapes?

Pisco is the “national drink” of Chile. Or, is it that of Peru?

What the heck is pisco, you ask? And, what is all the fuss about?

The word “pisco” comes from Quechua ("qheshwa,") an indigenous language of the Andean region. Formerly the official language of the Inca Empire, it is still spoken by approximately 13 million people.

Pisco is a clear brandy, or aguardiente, distilled from white muscat grapes. It is grown in two main regions of South America: the area around Pisco, Peru, a small fishing village, and in the Elqui Valley, or “zona pisquera,” located in the hot, dry region of northern Chile.

Both Chile and Peru claim the right to produce pisco, and present it as their own exclusive product. Dispute is increasing over which country owns the appelation of Pisco, which dates back to the time of the Spanish viceroyalty. When Peru and Chile became separate countries, each country continued to produce, and drink, pisco with nationalistic vigor.

Economically, pisco is significant, too. In the Pisco region of Peru, it is a major industry, along with the cultivation of cotton, and commercial fishing. Meanwhile, Chile produces 5.5 million cases of pisco, per year, in its northern region, providing jobs for 70,000 people.

Whether enjoying a refreshing Pisco Sour on a long, hot afternoon in the valleys of northern Chile, or sipping seaside in Peru, it is a must try for any visitor to South America. (Don’t forget to bring back a bottle, or two!)

Pisco Sour
(recipe provided by the Embassy of Chile, in Washington DC, an excerpt from “Bottled Sunlight, The Book of Chilean Pisco”)
Serves four

2 cups Chilean pisco (35°)
¼ cup sugar syrup
½ cup lemon juice
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 egg white
Dashes of Angostura bitter

Combine all ingredients in the blender, except the Angostura bitters, until ice begins to melt. Serve immediately, in small glasses, add dashes of Angostura bitters.

Pisco Sour
(Peruvian version)

3 glasses Pisco
1 1/2 glasses sugar
1 egg white
Ice cubes
Angostura bitters
Powdered cinnamon
2 Glasses fresh Peruvian lime (or lemon) juice

Add the Pisco and egg-white to a cocktail shaker, and shake vigorously (or into a blender) Add ice cubes, sugar and juice, mix.
Serve in wide glasses, topped with a sprinkling of cinnamon, and a drop of bitters.


Anonymous said...

Nice post --- this is endless topic in Peru and Chile, where I lived for awhile. But the piscos that come from the two countries taste REALLY different. Peru's is spicier and more aromatic while Chile's is more like a whiskey and also smooth enough to drink with Coke, which everyone does there (ordered as a 'piscola').

natalie@theliquidmuse.com said...

Thanks for the comment. I always input from readers - please feel free to share by emailing theliquidmuse@yahoo.com

Thanks for reading - and cheers!