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.

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One Response to “Pisco Sour – the new Mojito?”

  1. MC Slim JB

    I usually find Cuchi Cuchi’s cocktails pretty well made — they were early advocates of fresh muddled fruits and herbs on the scene — but they’re clearly missing something in serving a Pisco Sour on the rocks.

    A place whose cocktail craft has surprised me is Toro. I’d expected it to be more of wine bar, which it was, though it took a while for them to serve affordable, weeknight wines in addition to pricey pours. But they mix quite respectable cocktails, too, including a very fine version of the Pisco Sour. The one I had the other night had the right Angostura note, and a lovely meringue layer that lasted through the entire drink.

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