Pisco is a brandy-like liquor distilled from grapes that forms the base for the pisco sour cocktail, both of which are currently being fought over culturally and legally by Peru and Chile, each fervently claiming to be the birthplace of these drinks. Ignoring this near-hundred year struggle, I must apologize to the Chileans and limit my discussion to the Peruvian versions since it's all I've had the pleasure of trying but I welcome all Andean countries, or any nations of the world for that matter, to make travel arrangements for me to visit and sample the wonderful local victuals.
The pisco sour is to Cusco, a fascinating tourist destination in Peru and starting point of the Inca Trail, what the margarita is to Key West, a fascinating destination city in the US and starting point of the US1 highway, and can often be acquired as a free compliment to a meal at many of the local restaurants.
A mixed drink, you say, what's so strange about that? Well, here's a list of the typical ingredients:
* 2 fl oz (8 parts) Pisco
* 1 fl oz (4 parts) Lime juice
* 3/4 fl oz (3 part) Simple syrup
* 1 Egg white
* 1 dash Bitters
Egg whites, that's crazy! There was no doubt a look of sheer horror on my face when I saw my first pisco sour being prepared, especially when I was supposed to be avoiding any situations with a potential for causing diarrhea. My flirtation with and successful avoidance of gastrointestinal distress aside, the raw egg white whipped up into a foam within the cocktail was actually really good and the drink would have been incredibly boring without it.
In my limited sampling of this concoction I found that some places went a bit overboard with the syrup and it became far too sweet. The pisco itself, or at least the cheaper varieties, is said to taste like a weak (as in flavor) rum but it's difficult to isolate any flavor when your only exposure to it is in mixed form. Because of the lemon or lime juice used, the pisco sour is a bit reminiscent of a margarita in certain respects but the frothy egg whites give it more of a cappuccino-like texture.
I'm not a big fan of cocktails but this was interesting enough to call for repeat samplings and I owe that primarily to the egg whites and citrus juice. We even found some places gave the egg white treatment to lemonade which resulted in a wonderful and refreshing beverage. Definitely recommended for the adventurous lushes out there but don't blame me for any cases of diarrhea or salmonella infections.