The national drink of both Peru and Chile, the pisco sour is a simple sweet-and-sour summer sipper that only requires five ingredients. While the exact history of the pisco sour is disputed, it is generally accepted that the drink was created sometime between 1915 and 1925. Chile and Peru bicker over the origin of the pisco sour, but most believe the creation of the drink is tied to United States immigrant Victor Morris who concocted the drink in his Lima bar. The cocktail was then slightly updated by Peruvian bartender Mario Bruiget a few years later.
Pisco, the main ingredient in the pisco sour, is a grape-distilled South American spirit that was first made in the 16th century. This grape brandy ranges from clear to amber in color and has a distinctive wine-like aroma and flavor, ranging from smooth and herbal to funky and earthy depending on the age and quality. The core ingredients in a good sour are spirit, citrus, sugar and egg whites. The only difference of the pisco sour is its inclusion of Angostura bitters. Made with pisco brandy, simple syrup, lime juice, egg white and a few dashes of bitters, the taste of the pisco sour is a tantalizing mix of tart, sweet, silky and herbaceous.
While both Peru and Chile claim the pisco sour as their national drink, there are notable differences between the two. In Chile, a lighter and tarter pisco sour is made with pisco, lime juice and sugar instead of syrup. In Peru, Bruiget created the famous cocktail by altering the recipe and adding Angostura bitters and egg whites. Egg whites bring relatively little flavor to the cocktail, but they add a great deal of texture and temper bitterness and even acidity. Pisco sours are famed for a silky head of foam from dry-shaking the egg whites with the rest of the ingredients and then shaking the cocktail again with ice. The aromatic bitters, which are usually applied as a garnish, add color and fragrance to the cocktail.
The difference between a good pisco sour and a great one tends to come down to the balance of citrus and sweetener. There should be just the right amount of fresh citrus to brighten the drink, but not so much as to pucker the mouth. The sugar should also balance the liquor with the citrus and round out the bitterness and tartness. Delicious and easy to drink, the complementary sweet and tart flavors of the pisco sour make the cocktail quite refreshing.