Pisco, the grape based distillate made famous by the Pisco Sour, is in a bit of an identity crisis. Chile and Peru both claim the clear beverage as their national libation, and neither is ready to compromise or share. Both have fervent national pride in what they produce. In 2009, Anthony Bourdain took No Reservations to these two Andes countries where he sampled each version of the pisco sour. When his acerbic tongue criticized the Chilean cocktail, preferring the Peruvian potation, the southern neighbor rebutted. One publication claimed that his remarks wounded the nations pride, and a Chilean critic insinuated that Bourdain’s tastings were not representative of the country’s cocktail offerings. Peruvian pisco, on the other hand has been waning in popularity compared with that of Chile, causing further neighborly tensions.
Bouts of pride over the national spirit continue, but the result is far from serious, in fact the competition over whose beverage is better only results in a more delicious pisco. The distinctions between Peruvian and Chilean pisco include varietals of grapes that may be used, though generally both countries tend toward more pungent fruit for production. While Chile’s pisco can be produced in stills of the distillers’ choice (including continuous and pot), Peru legally mandates that pisco be made in copper pot stills. Probably the most discernable difference between the two piscos (besides the varietals) is the fact that Peruvian pisco must be bottled immediately after distillation, without altering flavor, color or aroma.
Traditionally served: Neat or in a Pisco Sour.
“I have a theory it is compounded of cherubs’ wings, the glory of a tropical dawn, the red clouds of sunset and the fragments of lost epics of dead masters,”
Rudyard Kipling referring to a pisco-based drink.