Vespa's recipes have appeared in "Midwest Living" and "Taste of Home." She belongs to Cook's Recipe Testers for "Cook's Illustrated."
The Best Peruvian Pisco Sours
Pisco sour is the most popular drink in Peru. Every household thinks their recipe is the best. However, Victor's pisco sours are legendary. A perfect balance of sweet and tangy, they are rich and bright with a silky mouthfeel and foamy head.
When we finally plucked up the courage to ask Victor for his recipe, we were surprised to find his measurements simple and easy to remember. The hardest part is squeezing the lime juice, but a lime squeezer will make the job quicker and more enjoyable.
Pisco is actually grape brandy. Although some say it tastes similar to tequila, pisco has its own unique flavor. Pisco sours became popular in the United States during the Gold Rush of California, when Peruvians boasted to fellow miners about their national cocktail.
Nowadays, pisco sours have taken on a modern twist with exotic ingredients like passion fruit or Peruvian golden berries. Our favorite, though, is still Victor's traditional recipe. We hope you enjoy his pisco sours as much as we do!
Tips & Substitutions for Perfect Pisco Sours
Recipe: Authentic Peruvian Pisco Sours
Recipe: Quick Pisco Sours
Ingredients & Substitutions:
What's a Key lime?
Pisco: Acholado vs. Quebranta
What is Jarabe de Goma (Gum or Gomme Syrup)?
Recipe: Homemade Gum Syrup
Tips for Perfect Pisco Sours
- See the section "Ingredients & Substitutions" at the end of the page for information on finding ingredients and easy substitutions.
- Use cold, refrigerated ingredients for the best results.
- If you're concerned about the safety of a raw egg, substitute 1 Tablespoon pasteurized egg white.
- If you have a large egg, include only part of the egg white. The egg gives pisco sour its characteristic thick and foamy head.
- If you don't have jarabe de goma or simple syrup, substitute one Tablespoon of white sugar per ounce of pisco.
- When juicing Key limes, be careful not to squeeze too hard so the bitter flavor of the rind doesn't transfer to the juice.
- This recipe calls for Peruvian pisco, or grape brandy made in Peru. Chilean pisco is sweeter and lower proof, so the results will be different with Chilean pisco.
- In a pinch, substitute grappa or tequila for the pisco.
- If using a shaker instead of a blender, add everything but the ice cubes. Shake for 30 seconds. Add ice and shake for another 30 seconds. Serve.
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Authentic Pisco Sour Recipe
The Best Way to Juice Key limes
- 1 cup Key lime juice, freshly squeezed*
- 1 cup jarabe de goma*
- 1 cup small ice cubes
- 2 cups Peruvian pisco*
- 1 small egg white
- Bitters, for sprinkling
- * Or see the "Ingredients & Substitutions" section at the end of this page
- Pour all ingredients but the bitters into a blender container.
- Blend on high for a minute or until foamy and smooth.
- Pour into glasses and sprinkle with bitters. Serve and enjoy!
Quick Pisco Sour
Not necessarily authentic but still delicious, this Pisco Sour is made with ingredients easy to find in the U.S.
- 12 ounces frozen limeade concentrate
- 12 ounces Pisco
- 1 small egg white
- 2 cups small ice cubes
- Bitters (preferably Amargo Chuncho), for sprinkling
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- Combine all ingredients in a blender container.
- Process on high until smooth and frothy.
- Pour pisco sour into glasses and sprinkle with bitters.
What's a Key Lime?
Key limes, also called Mexican limes and West Indian limes, are the most popular citrus fruit in Peru. Higher in Vitamin C, they are thinner skinned and smaller than Tahitian or Persian limes (commonly found in U.S. grocery stores).
Sometimes referred to as "bartender's limes", their tart flavor lends itself perfectly to alcoholic beverages such as Pisco sour, margarita, mojito or gin & tonic.
If you cannot find Key limes in your area, substitute freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice. There is no substitute for freshly squeezed citrus juice.
Pisco: Acholado vs. Quebranta
The Quebranta variety of grapes grows along the desert coastal area of Peru and produces the pisco with the highest alcohol content. Pisco made with Quebranta grapes is non-aromatic and best appreciated in the mouth rather than the nose. Quebranta pisco has a taste profile including banana, lucuma and passion fruit with a lingering flavor of chocolate and raisins.
Acholado is a blend of piscos made of different varieties of grapes. Although Quebranta pisco is most often used in Pisco Sours, acholado pisco can also make a very nice cocktail. Sample both Acholado and Quebranta piscos to find your favorite.
What's Jarabe de Goma (Gum or Gomme Syrup)?
Although jarabe de goma costs only $2–3 in Peru, gomme or gum syrup has become both rare and expensive in the U.S. market. Interestingly, it was the sweetener of choice for bartenders of the 50's for the velvety viscosity and body it lends to classic cocktails such as the Old Fashioned.
Gum syrup also rounds out the alcoholic bite of cocktails made with pisco, making them taste fuller and richer. It has the advantage of acting as a thickener and gives drinks a light, airy texture. If you have time to plan ahead, why not try the following easy recipe for homemade gum syrup? Although you may have to invest initially in a few ingredients, you can whip up a large batch and store it in the refrigerator for several months.
If you're in a rush, though, you can substitute rich simple syrup for the gum syrup. Just boil 1 cup of water with 2 cups of sugar for a minute or until the sugar dissolves. You'll still get the sweet and tangy flavor, but the Pisco Sours won't be quite as creamy or frothy. In a pinch, you can also substitute 1 Tablespoon of white sugar for every ounce of pisco, although this is our least favorite option.
Homemade Jarabe de Goma (Gum or Gomme Syrup)
Recipe courtesy of Craft Cocktails at Home by Kevin Liu
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups white sugar
- 1 Tablespoon gum Arabic
- 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1 teaspoon egg white powder
- Heat water and sugar and stir for about a minute, until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat.
- Add gum Arabic and xanthan gum. Stir until powders dissolve.
- Let cool to room temperature.
- Stir egg white powder into the cooled mixture.
- Let homemade gum syrup rest for 2–3 hours, or until thickened.
Questions & Answers
Question: What is rich simple syrup?
Answer: Sweeter than basic simple syrup, rich simple syrup doubles the amount of sugar for a 2:1 ratio of granulated sugar to water. Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves.
© 2013 Vespa Woolf