Peruvian Pisco. What is it?
Pisco is Peru’s national alcoholic beverage. It is a type of brandy distilled from wine in a copper pot. It is then left to rest in metal or glass for three months, but it isn’t aged. The Peruvian Pisco Sour is the classic way to drink Pisco.
History of Peruvian Pisco
After the Spanish had conquered Peru in the mid-16th century, they found the southern coast of Peru ideal for growing grapes. They brought eight varieties of grapevines from Spain and produced wine from these grapes. They also created a drink from fermented grapes called aguardiente or "firewater" in English.
Wine production flourished until 1687 when Peru suffered a devastating earthquake with a magnitude 8.5. It destroyed the wine cellars and broke the storage containers used for wine production. The earthquake also destroyed the port of Pisco and damaged the cities of Lima, Ica, and Callao. These were the largest wine-producing areas at the time.
In the early 18th century, wine production recovered. By the middle of the 18th century, Peru was producing more Pisco than wine and exporting aguardiente to other countries. Aguardiente became Pisco, named for the shipping port. Most of the wine producers at this time were Jesuit priests. Due to political influence from Europe, the Jesuits were forced to sell to their vineyards to growers who did not have the same expertise as the priests. They grew cotton in response to the demand from Europe and the United States. This action furthered the decline of wine and Pisco production.
Usage of Peruvian Pisco in the United States and Worldwide
During the 1830's, San Francisco became the gateway for Pisco in the United States. The advent of the Pisco cocktails helped Pisco became more popular in the 20th century. During the roaring 20's, two Pisco cocktails were born. One by an American bartender who had moved to Peru opened a bar in Lima and created a drink called the Pisco Sour. The other cocktail, Pisco Punch, was created at the Bank Exchange & Billiard Saloon in San Francisco. By the 1960’s, Pisco and the Pisco cocktails were available throughout the country.
Since 2010, there has been a growing demand for Peruvian Pisco worldwide. Peru exports Pisco to 85 countries throughout the world. The top consumers of Peruvian Pisco are Chile, the United States, the United Kingdom and Columbia, with sales increasing on the average of 30% per year.
Fun Facts about Peruvian Pisco
- Pisco Sour is Peru’s national drink.
- There are over 300 mom and pop distillers along the southern coast of Peru
- Pisco day in Peru on fourth Sunday in July.
- Pisco Sour day is the first Saturday in February
- Current Peruvian regulations on Pisco production is very strict, and production only occurs in one of 5 regions along the southern coast of Peru; Lima, Ica, Arequipa, Moquegua and parts of Tacna.
- Pisco Punch contains Pisco, pineapple, lime juice, sugar, gum arabic and distilled water.
- Pisco Sour has Pisco, lime juice, egg whites, simple syrup and Angostura bitters.
Where's my Peruvian Pisco
It is evident there is a lot of tradition and passion that goes into producing Peruvian Pisco. This relatively new type of brandy continues to be enjoyed by Americans and consumers worldwide. Peruvian Pisco is served in upscale bars. You will also find it on the cocktail menu of many fine dining establishments.