So you know your way around a Pisco Sour, but do you know your mosto verde from your acholado pisco?
For bartenders wanting to up their game when it comes to this classic Peruvian spirit, the Peruvian Trade & Investment Office launched the London Pisco College recently.
Bartenders gathered at Pachamama East for a day of tasting and education, joined by Peru’s UK ambassador Juan Carlos Gamarra, and director of the Peruvian Trade & Investment Office Jaime Cardenas.
Before getting into the real nuts and bolts of the category, guests were welcomed with a choice of a Chilcano with ginger ale, or a Piston with tonic.
‘The Chilcano is one of the most important pisco drinks, and it’s one you can play around with by adding different bitters or oils, for example,’ began pisco educator Glen Hooper in his introduction to the session. ‘The Piston, or Pisco & Tonic, is the next big thing. It’s how you get people into pisco and you can use it to encourage gin drinkers to try other spirits too.’
Pisco is named after the town of the same name on the Peruvian coast, where the first vines were sown to produce pisco in the 16th century. The word comes from the ancient Incan term ‘pisccu’, meaning ‘bird’ and references the abundance of flamingos that flock there.
For the tasting part of the afternoon, Hooper was joined by Tom Bartram of Speciality Brands and Marlowe Harris from Amathus Drinks. As they explained, the grapes used in Peru to produce pisco are divided into aromatic and non-aromatic.
The difference became apparent once the tasting began, with examples made from non-aromatic variety Quebranta from both BarSol and 1615, followed by a pisco produced from aromatic grape Torontel, also by 1615. Next up in the tasting was a blend or ‘acholado’ from 1615, followed by a mosto verde from BarSol, distilled from partially fermented grapes.
from BarSolGlass: Highball
Garnish: Slice of lime on the side
Method: Fill Highball glass 3/4 full with cubed iced and ginger ale. Float pisco on top. Add drops of Angostura Bitters.
‘In the more than 400 years of its existence, pisco has had its highs and lows, but it’s in a really good place at the moment,’ Hooper explained. ‘One of the factors that contributed to this was the creation of the DO in the late 1990s.’
The designation of origin (DO) requires that the spirit is exclusively obtained from the single distillation of fermented fresh musts of pisco grapes, without the addition of any other ingredient. The DO seeks to preserve the traditional principles of quality established in the coastal valleys of Arequipa, Ica, Lima, Moquegua and Tacna, which are the production areas recognised by Peruvian regulations.
Hooper went on to discuss the category’s fascinating history, from its rise to prominence in California during the California Gold Rush to the origins of the Pisco Punch.
After a few examples of pisco’s versatility when it comes to mixing, covering Pisco Punch, Pisco Sours and more, Pachamama’s Carolina Capilla wrapped up the day with an Algarrobina cocktail, made with a Quebranta pisco, egg yolk, evaporated milk and carob syrup.
If you missed out on this first incarnation of the London Pisco College, you’ve got London Pisco Week to look forward to, during the first week of February next year.
London Pisco Week runs from 2 to 8 February. To find out more about London Pisco Week or to get involved, get in touch with [email protected] or check out the website. Follow London Pisco Week on social media @PiscoisPeruUK.