The Pisco Challenge: Wading Into Controversy with a Blind Taste Test and a Headache the Morning After
For the uninitiated, Pisco is a popular liquor from South America made from grapes in a distilling process similar to brandy. It typically is in the 40 percent alcohol range and is made in both Peru and Chile.
More importantly, it’s a pissing match for the ages.
Chileans will tell you that only they have the “real pisco” since according to them it was invented in Chile. The Peruvians (who fancy themselves as the culinary superstars of South America) will be overjoyed to tell you that Chilean pisco is rotgut and that Peruvian pisco is the only acceptable option. It’s such a point of pride they even have national days of recognition for both pisco and the pisco sour! Peruvian National Pisco Day is July 25 this year (the fourth Sunday of every July) and Peruvian National Pisco Sour Day is February 6 2016 (the first Saturday of every February). Mark those calendars.
In order to establish which country actually makes better Pisco, The Messenger decided to get drunk with a blind taste test. Shenaniganry powers, activate!
The victims were given unmarked identical containers of pisco. In one jar, there was a small amount of Capel, a brand from Chile. In the other was Encanto, a Peruvian pisco. Some participants were also given the opportunity to try pisco mixed with San Pellegrino grapefruit drink.
Of the six people who tried the pisco straight, five preferred the Peruvian pisco, even though all of them found the Peruvian brand to be smoother.
Taster #1 called the Peruvian pisco: “smooth but fairly strong tasting.” Taster #2 said the Chilean pisco: “tastes like rubbing alcohol” and the Peruvian pisco had “more character and [was] more grapey.”
Those that tried it as a mixed drink were split 50/50 on which country produced better hooch.
Taster #3 preferred the Chilean pisco straight, but liked the mixed drink with Peruvian pisco. She went on to say that the cocktail with Chilean pisco tasted “way too close to that window cleaner flavor.” She refused to explain how she knows what window cleaner tastes like.
Taster #4 Preferred the Peruvian pisco straight as well as in the cocktail. She then stated “I could drink this stuff all night long” but fortunately for her she switched to beer at some point.
Everyone agreed the mixed drinks were pretty damn tasty.
You’ll have a good time drinking either pisco as long as you make a good cocktail with it, but the Peruvian variety lives up to its reputation as the superior liquor straight.
Pisco Drink Recipes
Pisco generally goes well with tangy sour citrus flavors, which makes the pisco sour the gateway drink for discovering the joys of this particular liquor.
To make one, mix pisco, lime juice, egg white, ice, bitters, and simple syrup.
If you are lazy and/or in hurry, a good method for making a good pisco drink is to mix a shot of pisco into some San Pellegrino grapefruit drink.
Important Knowledge for the Newbs
Pisco hangovers are reputed to be extra brutal. We didn’t blind test that, so we can’t say. It may or may not be true, but if so, the cause might lie in the fact that pisco does not seem to taste as strong as it really is when mixed with the right quantities of sweet and sour flavors. In other words, it’s easy to drink too much too fast, and if that’s not a recipe for a hangover, then what is? Another possibility is that since pisco sours tend to be on the sugary side, and sugar intensifies some of the effects of hangovers, you’re going to get a bad hangover because of the sugar, not just the pisco.