The Pisco Sour: A History

The Pisco Sour is a wonderful cocktail hailing from South America, specifically Peru and Chile. The drink was first mixed in Lima, the capital of Peru, in the early 1920s by an American bartender named Victor Vaughn Morris. He opened Morris’ Bar in Lima in 1916, and this is where the Pisco Sour took off. The Pisco Sour uses pisco as its base liquor. Pisco is a faintly yellow or clear grape brandy, found in regions that grow grapes for winemaking. Pisco became popular in the 16th century among Spanish settlers in South America. The other ingredients in a Pisco Sour beyond its base liquor, pisco, can vary greatly.

Many versions of the Pisco Sour exist today, and it has become popular outside of South America since its invention, and both Peru and Chile continue to name the Pisco Sour as their national cocktail.


Peru’s Pisco Sour varies from Chile’s; each uses different ingredients. The Peruvian Pisco Sour is made from Peruvian-made pisco, plus egg white, bitters, lime juice, and simple syrup as a sweeter. The drink is served with ice and is not aged.


The Chilean edition of the Pisco Sour drink uses pisco made in Chile, of course, as well as lemon juice, powdered sugar, egg whites, and it is also served with ice. The Chilean Pisco Sour is typically aged, as opposed to its Peruvian relative.


Various adaptations of both the Peruvian and Chilean Pisco Sour exist in both countries. In Peru, many editions of the cocktail utilize tropical fruits native to Peru like maracuya. The Mango Sour, a Chilean Pisco Sour incorporating mango, and the Aji Sour, which includes extremely spicy green chili peppers, are both popular in Chile. The Piscola is another commonly found cocktail in Chile; it mixes a traditional Pisco Sour with Coca-Cola, creating an entirely different drink.


Other cocktails can be made with pisco beyond the traditional Pisco Sour, including Pisco Punch, a drink hailing from California and first made in the 1800s with pineapple and simple syrup. The Serena Libre is another pisco cocktail that is much sweeter than a typical Pisco Sour, using papaya juice and sugar to sweeten the drink.


There is much controversy about the actual origins of the Pisco Sour, and both Peru and Chile claim that their nation is the home of the first Pisco Sour cocktail. In Chile, myth has it that an English steward first created the Pisco Sour in Chile and then brought the cocktail recipe to Peru. Both countries hold a national Pisco Sour day and celebrate it as their specialty drink.


2 oz Pisco
1 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Sugar Syrup
1 oz Egg white
1-2 dash Angostura Bitter

Shake all the ingredients except the bitters in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until the outside of the shaker becomes frosted then strain into a lowball glass. Dash a couple of dashes of Angostura bitters over the top and serve.


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