In Chile, the question “Have you tried a pisco sour?” leaves newcomers with a caught-in-the-headlights feeling. A South American dance like the Salsa, perhaps, or a dessert?
No, a pisco sour is a drink made from grape brandy and mixed with the juice of pisco, a small green citrus fruit rather like a lime that comes from the Elqui Valley. Sugar or “goma” (a type of syrup) are used to sweeten the drink. It is then topped with crushed ice. And a proper pisco sour must be served in a champagne flute. Although Chileans readily admit that the drink originated in Peru, they have declared it is their own national beverage.
Like Irish stew or borsht, people have their own recipes. Chilean bartenders – generously – eyeball their drinks. Approach pisco sours with caution: one is fine, two is borderline; three is dangerous. And we don’t even want to think about four.
This “secret” pisco sour recipe comes from Don Santiago, the bartender at the Don Rodrigo Bar. Start with a strong – at least 40 percent grape brandy – such as Alto Del Carmen. Mix three parts brandy with one part pisco juice in a shaker. Add confectionary sugar to taste and top with crushed ice. Shake vicariously until you don’t hear the ice. Pour into a flute and add a few drops of Angostural bitters.
Patricia Guzman, an actress whom the press refer to as the “Susan Sarandon” of Chile, follows a similar recipe. She uses four parts brandy to one part pisco. Rather than using the juice, however, she peels the picsos and leaves the peel on one or two. She then adds confectionary sugar and ice and whips it up in her blender.
The Don Rodrigo Bar is located next to the Foresta Hotel on Avenida Victoria Subercaseaux 355 in front of the Santa Lucia hill in downtown Santiago.