One of the world’s spirits with a distinct sense of place — imbued with all the traits that the natural environment, from soil to climate, influenced it with — is pisco, a brandy made in Peru and Chile’s winemaking regions. It’s one of the few spirits that can boast a Denomination of Origin, a regulatory title that means all pisco has to be made under strict guidelines and in only a specific region. (That region, according to the DO, is Peru, although certain countries allow Chile to export the grape-based spirit under the pisco name.)
Also deeply tied to the land is pisco’s biggest producer, Hacienda La Caravedo, a Peruvian distillery that has been making the white spirit since 1684, now through the Portón brand. The pisco that current Portón distiller Johnny Schuler makes comes from estate-grown grapes that sprout from the distillery’s land, nestled in the Ica Valley of Peru in the foothills of the Andes.
The result of the pisco’s distinct terroir is a silky beverage with a complex symphony of savory and tropical fruit flavors and a stewed stone fruit finish. It’s just as easy to drink by itself as in a cocktail, but if you do want it in a drink, try it in the pisco sour, the creation of an American bartender living in Peru in the 1920s. This Prohibition-era cocktail has helped to introduce many a drinker to the flavorful pisco, and Saturday is its big day: Peruvians celebrate National Pisco Sour Day on the first Saturday in February. A few local bars, including Peche, Searsucker and Firehouse Hostel and Lounge, will be featuring pisco sour specials. Or you can make it yourself at home with this recipe.
Portón Pisco Sour
2 oz. Pisco Portón
1 oz. fresh lime juice
1 oz. simple syrup
1 oz. egg whites
Dash of Angostura bitters
Add all ingredients in a blender. Blend on high for 15 seconds, add 5 cubes of ice, and then pulse in the blender 5 times. Strain up into a glass. Garnish with 3 drops of Angostura bitters.
— Pisco Portón