I am going to tell you a secret now. I am of two minds whether I should tell, for fear I ruin the place. It’s one of the places I take visitors to Berlin, when there’s warm weather and the mood is right. There is a little Peruvian restaurant on Arkonaplatz that makes delicious Pisco Sours. It took almost 3 years after I moved here for us to visit, lured in one hot summer evening by a chalkboard sign with only PISCO SOURS and an arrow written on it. The restaurant run by a very friendly man, usually sitting at one of the tiny tables outside on the sidewalk. We don’t know each others’ names but he always recognizes us when we come down the street, laughs and gives us an “Hola!”, and starts heading inside to fire up the blender. Sometimes we are not even thinking of Pisco Sours, but we always go in anyway.
Before finding this restaurant, I had only had a few watered-down, emphasis-on-the-sour Pisco Sours (I’d had one incredible one, from a Peruvian pisco producer at a spirits festival, which convinced me to keep trying). My husband had never had one before, but again, it was a hot evening and he was sold on the idea of a cold drink. Within minutes, we were sat in patio chairs on the sidewalk with frosty glasses in our hands; the perfect environment for people-watching and sun-downing.
Pisco is a clear grape brandy produced in Peru and Chile; Chilean pisco is usually sweeter and has a lower ABV than Peruvian pisco. Both countries claim the Pisco Sour as their national drinks, even though the recipes differ. There is some debate as to which country can claim the creation of the Pisco Sour, though generally most historians agree it was first made in Lima, Peru in the 1920s. Peru even celebrates the Día del Pisco Sour (Pisco Sour Day, on the first Saturday of every February) and the Día del Pisco (Pisco Day, the fourth Sunday of every July). Mark your calendars accordingly.
Here’s a basic breakdown of the Peruvian vs Chilean Pisco Sours:
Peru: Peruvian pisco, lime juice, simple syrup or sugar, egg white, Angostura bitters
Chile: Chilean pisco, pica lime juice (sometimes lemon is substituted), sugar
You can pretty safely assume that if you are at a Peruvian or Chilean bar or restaurant and they have Pisco Sours on the menu, it will only be a Pisco Sour in that national style. Both countries can get pretty ferocious about the Correct Way to Make a Pisco Sour, so don’t argue with your server (also, why would you argue? Both variations are delicious). The vast majority of the time though, most bar menus don’t ascribe to either the Peruvian or Chilean style, leaving off the origin of the pisco used and often substituting lemon or different types of lime juice. Obviously this is not good practice, but asking your bartender for clarification is always helpful.
Ingredients & Method for the Peruvian Pisco Sour:
15ml (1 T) egg white
25g (2 T) sugar
Juice from half of a lime
60ml (2 oz) Peruvian pisco
Handful of crushed ice
Angostura bitters, for garnish
Dissolve the sugar into the lime juice in a blender. Add pisco, egg white, and ice and blend at a high speed until the drink is light and frothy. Pour into a chilled rocks glass and garnish with a couple of drops of Angostura bitters.
Ingredients & Method for the Chilean Pisco Sour:
30ml (1 oz) pica lime juice or lemon juice
90ml (3 oz) Chilean pisco
12.5g to 25g (1-2 T) sugar
Handful of crushed ice.
Shake all ingredients in a shaker until the sugar is dissolved. Serve in a chilled rocks glass.