Though we call ourselves a Latino Wine Company, those of you that have visited the store know that we also love spirits, liqueurs, aperitifs, bitters, fortified wines and mixers, as well as the cocktails you can make with them.
Making your own cocktails at home is a blast, so we’ve decided to launch an on going series on our blog that will help you understand the art of crafting cocktails. We will aim to give you the knowledge you’ll need to improve your cocktail game if you already have one, or get started if you do not.
First, we will focus on the base spirits, the backbone of every cocktail. Then we’ll move on to the other components, such as Vermouth, bitters, and mixers, and finally talk about the tools and techniques that will make you a pro. Each post will also include a couple of cocktails to help illustrate the concepts discussed.
For our first installment, we’ve decided to introduce you to Pisco. We will also do a post covering all brandy (yes, pisco is technically a brandy, and brandy is a term for all spirits derived from grapes).
For this post, we will focus on how to use pisco. After all, as fascinating as the story of any spirit may be, how to use it is the most important thing. For more info on how pisco is made, have a look at this post focusing on the details.
Pisco as a base for a cocktail works very much like gin. In fact, you can get away with replacing gin with pisco in any gin-based recipe. Why? It has to do with aromatics and texture. Flavor actually derives from scent, not taste. The only work your mouth does with regard to the flavor of something is to tell you how sweet, bitter, sour, astringent, savory, salty and heavy it is. Everything else that gives a thing flavor comes from scent, both at your nose and the back of your palate. Both gin and pisco also have similar textures, with no oak influence (with standard gin and all Peruvian pisco) and heightened aromatic profiles. And just like with gin, each pisco is quite different than the next, so finding the one(s) you like is step one.
Now, this does not mean that replacing gin with pisco leads to the same cocktail. Instead, you switch out one set of aromas for another. Gin has botanical notes, such as juniper, orange and lemon peel, coriander, and angelica root. Pisco has notes of fresh fruit, often red fruits, and citrus notes that reflect more the entire fruit, not just the peel. To wrap your head around this, think how orange peel smells different than fresh squeezed orange juice.
Also, while gin and pisco have similar textures, pisco tends to come across as rounder and fuller, with less of a bite. This means that the drink will feel different with pisco in it, and that something with a bit of a bite to it, like lemon or lime or some bitters, might be necessary to balance the drink out.
So, what does this all boil down to? In general, pisco is great for light, lively cocktails that highlight the flavors and aromas of the spirit itself. For the most part, you’ll want to stick with cocktails that have 3-6 ingredients. Some partners for pisco include citrus, vermouth (usually dry and white), Campari or similar red bitter liqueur, tonic and soda. Some bitters can work well, such as more simple ones like lavender and orange, but generally you don’t need anything super aromatic like Angostura.
Pisco & Tonic
Like gin, tonic and pisco are a match made in heaven. The only thing you’ll want to change up is to add a bit more citrus than you would for a standard G&T, since the pisco’s texture is fuller and therefore won’t cut through the tonic the same way gin does.
1 lime slice (garnish)
2 oz pisco
4 oz tonic water, or to taste
3 cubes of ice
2 stirring straws
Either squeeze the ¼ lime into the rocks glass, or muddle it in the glass if you have a muddler (a great investment, as muddling unlocks a ton of flavors). If you do muddle, then you won’t need to garnish the drink at the end with the lime slice unless you want to. Add the gin and ice, and give it a good stir for about 20 seconds. Add the tonic and give the whole drink 2-3 light stirs to mix it, but be careful not to disrupt the tonic too much, or you’ll risk losing its carbonation. Garnish with the lime slice and place the stirring straws in the drink.
A South American take on an Italian Classic Negroni, traditionally made with equal parts of Gin, Campari and Sweet Vermouth. We love changing the gin for pisco as aromatic based spirit giving it a lively texture to this classic cocktail to be enjoyed before or after dinner.
Negroni can be made on the rocks, or neat...both ways are delicious for our own take on this cocktail we suggest the following recipe:
1 oz of Chilean Waqar Pisco
1 oz of Campari
1 oz of Yzaguirre Sweet Vermouth from Spain
Add all three ingredients in a cocktail mixer with three/four cubes of ice, shake gently then pour on a rock glass over ice or neat...garnish with a orange or lemon peel and if you want to add a bit of citrus notes, with a lighter burn gently the peel and squeeze some of the oils into the cocktail before caressing it on the rim of the glass. This cocktail will help you open your appetite or digestion after a big meal.