An associate on my trip to Patagonia was fond of the saying, “No Pisco, No Disco.” Every night we were served Pisco Sours before dinner. Every night I would hear that refrain. She had tried Pisco Sours at a club before the trip, and the revelers who introduced her to Chile’s national liquor introduced her, as well, to that phrase.
Pisco is a brandy made from grape wine distilled into a high-proof spirit. It is considered the national drink of Chile (although Peru wants to lay some claim to that title). Chilean Pisco is from wine with grapes grown only in the Atacama region or Coquimbo region with the primary varietal being muscat. The distilled spirit is sometimes aged in oak barrels and diluted down to 40 percent.
Pisco is naturally sweet, so adding sour mix tempers that, making a drink that’s too easy going down.
The real treat is drinking Pisco Sours with glacial ice. On Lake Grey, the captain of our ferry maneuvered the boat right up close to cobalt blue icebergs. Blue ice occurs when snow falls on a glacier, is compressed, and becomes part of the glacier. Pressure squeezes the air bubbles out, and ice crystals enlarge, making the ice appear blue. While stopped, his deckhands scooped up cinder-block sized pieces of the ice out of the water with nets. The amazing thing about glacial ice is that has no air bubbles in it. It is crystal clear and takes longer to melt. It may have been my imagination, but the drink seemed colder than that made with regular ice.
The Chilean version of the Pisco Sour uses juice from limones de pica — small, round, thin-skinned limes from the Pica region of Chile, syrup, and ice. In Peru, Key limes or lemons are used, and they add Angostura Bitters and egg white.
Pisco is available in the USA at most liquor stores, and a whiskey sour mix will do just fine.
I can say that the drink was such a heady concoction that I felt after only one drink, “Let’s stop there.”