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National Pisco Sour Day: How to make the perfect cocktail

What better way to celebrate National Pisco Sour Day this Saturday 2 February than with the perfect frothy cocktail – we asked the experts how to make a great Pisco Sour.

How to make the perfect Pisco Sour this National Pisco Sour Day (photo courtesy of Paul Winch-Furness)

Forget the Superbowl and the Six Nations rugby, National Pisco Sour Day is where its at this weekend.

Regardless of whether your bar is going all-out to celebrate the ‘holiday’, which falls on the first Saturday of February every year, at least make sure you get your Pisco Sour offer right.

Made from Pisco, a traditional, clear Peruvian brandy made from distilled grape juice, the cocktail also features lime juice, egg white, and sugar syrup, shaken together with ice with a few drops of bitters on top to achieve a frothy, sharp yet sweet drink.

“Pisco sour is the national drink of Peru; we drink it every year,” said Martin Morales, owner of Ceviche in London, the only restaurant in Europe with a dedicated Pisco bar. “It’s more than an aperitif, although its been used like that for many decades.”

But despite the traditional roots of the Pisco sour, there are several variations that can prove popular on dedicated cocktail menus.

Lima, another Peruvian restaurant in London, serves a Maracuya (passionfruit) Pisco sour in addition to the classic. It features a sour mix of passionfruit puree and lime juice but is created in the same traditional way.

The restaurant also serves a Maiz Morado Pisco sour, made from a Peruvian purple corn drink that is used in place of the sour mix.

“The lime juice is optional depending on the customer’s preference,” said restaurant manager Bunmi Okolosi. “The key is to get the sweet/ sour balance right for the person drinking it.”

When it comes to bitters, Lima only uses one Peruvian brand called Amargo Chuncho, which has a herbaceous character with citrus overtones. However Okolosi believes any citrus-led bitters works just as well.

Pisco infusions

When it comes to the Pisco itself, Morales suggests using quality brands made from the Quebranta grape or the Acholado blend.

“If you use an Pisco using an Italia grape it will be too aromatic, too powerful and balancing it with the other flavours will be too difficult,” he said. “It will be like trying to race a wild horse in the Grand National. You need a great grape to make a great Pisco sour.”

Once you have the right Pisco, Morales also recommended experimenting with infusing different fruits and roots in the spirit to create new flavours. “Infusions need to be made with fairly hard ingredients such as roots and stronger roots,” he added.

Regardless of the ingredients used to make a Pisco sour, from the brand of Pisco to the bitters, Morales outlined a few basic rules for ensuring the cocktail always hits the spot.

“Never squeeze the whole lime out; only squeeze it half way and only slice it through the middle of the fruit, not through the ends so you can get all the juice out. Don’t mess about with the membrane or you’ll end up with the bitterness of the lime instead of the sour.

“Egg white is crucial for the texture of a Pisco sour. The fresher the egg, the lighter the foam will be, resulting in a consistent, silky, light and smooth drink.

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