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May 2nd, 2007

Pisco Sour – the new Mojito?

Pisco SourA reader named Dan recently emailed, “Do you know of any stores with decent pisco selections? I ran out of the bottle I brought back from Peru and the warm weather is giving me an itch.” (As we know from drinkboston’s Pisco and Peruvian Soul party, pisco is a clear, grape-based spirit originating from Peru and Chile.) To answer Dan, I consulted an expert.

“I understand that itch,” answered Mr. Pisco, aka Brother Cleve. “Martignetti’s on Soldiers Field Road in Brighton has about the largest selection I’ve seen, including the highly recommended La Diablada and Macchu Pisco brands from Peru, as well as some Chilean brands. Beacon Hill Wine & Spirits on Charles St. and Federal Wine & Spirits (downtown by the old State House) often carry more esoteric spirits as well. Unfortunately, there are no local Peruvian/Chilean neighborhoods/stores here, so it’s not as easy as finding good Cachaça or Aguardiente. Also … for excellent Pisco Sours, etc, please visit the Alchemist in JP, Green Street in Central Sq., and No.9 Park downtown (and probably Eastern Standard shortly as well).”

Eastern Standard definitely — bartender Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli mixed me a Pisco Sour back in March. More recently, I had a Pisco Sour at Cuchi Cuchi in Cambridge. Seeing this classic Latin American cocktail on so many bar menus makes me wonder, ‘Is this a sign of the end of the Mojito’s dominance?’ Probably not. Mojitos are hard to screw up. Almost any bartender armed with a muddler can take rum, mint leaves, lime, simple syrup and a splash of soda and make a tasty drink. The bits of mint leaf look festive — even healthful — and they can mask an imbalance of flavors.

Mixing a good Pisco Sour, on the other hand, takes some skill. The ingredients are simple — pisco, lemon (and/or lime) juice, sugar, egg white, Angostura bitters — and balance is key. So is shaking the bejeezus out of the egg white. That’s how you get the ethereal, foamy crown on which the drops of bitters bleed, lending a piquant contrast to the drink’s softness. I had a nice straight-up version of this drink at the Alchemist and a perfect on-the-rocks version at Eastern Standard. Cuchi Cuchi also serves its Pisco Sours on the rocks. Here, the drink was good but not perfect. I don’t know if it’s because they use pasteurized egg white, or what, but the texture lacked softness and the bitters were dispensed with too heavy a hand. Meanwhile, Mojitos were being cranked out about every five minutes.

Posted in Cocktails, Pisco | 1 Comment »

March 8th, 2007

Pisco’d

John Byrd of the Alchemist

Thanks to all you pisco-loving fools who ventured out into the arctic air last night to join drinkboston.com at the Alchemist Lounge for pisco cocktails and Peruvian dance beats. There was a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on behind the bar as John Byrd and Nicky Poirier whipped up nine(!) different drinks using pisco from Macchu Pisco, a small producer of the grape-based spirit. My fave mixtures were the nicely sweet-n-sour Peruvian Americano (pisco, apple liquor, falernum, lemon), the elegant and refreshing Cucumber Pisco Martini (pisco, cucumbers, simple syrup), and the Pisco Punch (see recipe below), which was as soft and sweet as a spring breeze — something we all longed for last night.

Thanks to DJ Brother Cleve for the excellent tunes and to Alchemist owners Relena Erskine and Lyndon Fuller for offering up their lounge as the evening’s venue. If you want to get on the mailing list for drinkboston.com events, email drinkboston (at) comcast (dot) net.

The Pisco Punch recipe, direct from John Byrd: “We took 2 bottles of pisco, 1 can of pineapple juice, .25c of simple syrup, 1 whole pineapple chopped and one big splash of falernum. We let it sit for 4 hours and shook [each serving] up with an egg white. After the party we added grape halves & some very inexpensive California champagne, and that was very good!” Served in a double rocks glass over ice.

Posted in Events, Pisco | 6 Comments »

February 23rd, 2007

Pisco and Peruvian soul at the Alchemist 3/6/07

First, it’s pronounced “pees-co.” Second, it’s the national drink of Peru and Chile, and the two countries are fighting over its appellation (this BBC article will tell you what you need to know). Third, it’s a clear, grape-based spirit, or unaged brandy, made famous in cocktails like the Pisco Sour, Pisco Punch and Piscola (OK, that’s just pisco and coke over ice, but what fun to say).

Traffic Sound Peruvian funk

On Tuesday, March 6, Alchemist Lounge bartenders John Byrd and Nicole Poirier will mix these classics, along with a special menu of new pisco cocktails they created. International DJ Brother Cleve will spin 1970s Peruvian funk and soul, and the kitchen will whip up some Peruvian- and Chilean-style snacks for the occasion.

A new company called Macchu Pisco (the name is a play on Machu Picchu, the ancient city in the Andes Mountains of Peru) will supply the pisco for the evening’s cocktails. The company’s Peruvian brandies are Macchu Pisco, a mixable spirit made with quebranta grapes, and La Diablada, a super-premium pisco made with muscatel and italia grapes that can be sipped neat, like a good cognac. Macchu Pisco’s owner, Melanie da Trinidade-Asher, was born in Peru and has ties to the Boston area; she formulated her company’s plan at Harvard Business School.

The party starts at 7:30 p.m. Pisco cocktails are $8 each. No cover charge or tickets, but RSVP to the Alchemist at 617-477-5741. Groovy music. Yummy snacks. Bring your friends.

To get on the email list for drinkboston.com events, email drinkboston at comcast dot net.

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