Pisco Cocktails still are one of the rarer sights on menus in cocktail bars and restaurants. That is unless you are in Chile or Peru, where the spirit's roots lie.
If you're in one of these two countries that both call Pisco their national spirit, you will get a decent Pisco Sour in many restaurants, pubs, and cocktail bars.
But the spirit slowly finds its way into modern mixology and started to gain a growing international following.
Also, there are more ways to incorporate the grape spirit in mixed drinks than just the obvious Pisco Sour.
What is Pisco?
Pisco is a spirit distilled from the juice of fermented grapes. It has an average alcohol content between 38% and 48% vol.
It usually is unaged and colorless, but some brands and versions have a pale amber shade.
As mentioned, the grape spirit is produced in designated areas in Chile and Peru, with Peru being responsible for the majority of the export volume. Also, some cocktail recipes ask specifically for Peruvian Pisco, but usually, both versions work.
In general, Pisco has subtle fruity notes and a slight sweetness. Also, quality Pisco has a smooth mouthfeel and no harsh alcoholic bite.
If you want to learn more, for instance, who actually invented the grape spirit, read our guide on Pisco.
The 7 best Pisco Cocktails
In sum, there are only as few as four traditional Pisco cocktails, the Pisco Sour, the Chilcano, the El Capitan, and the Pisco Punch.
Furthermore, you can tweak all sorts of classic recipes and replace the base with Pisco. The clear, smooth spirit is quite versatile and perfectly suited for all kinds of mixed drink.
So, to give you some inspiration on what to create with the grape spirit, here's our list of the 7 best Pisco Cocktails:
The Pisco Sour
I know, I said there's a lot to discover beyond the Pisco Sour, but still, it's the uncontested number one when it comes to Pisco drinks. And rightly so.
The Pisco Sour follows the classic Sour template of base spirit, sweetener, and fresh lemon juice. And like many other of our favorite Sour cocktails, it also calls for one egg white and a dash of bitters. -Traditionally, it is three drops, to be precise.
The Pisco Punch
The Pisco Punch is another of the Pisco classics. And quite possibly, it is even older than the Pisco Sour as it can be traced back to the late 1800s.
It's a refreshing drink made with lime, pineapple, water, gum syrup, and Pisco. The syrup part is particularly noteworthy as it also is responsible for the perfect mouthfeel of the Pisco Punch.
The Grapefruit Pisco Collins
The Pisco Collins is one of the many members of the Collins Cocktail Family. Besides Pisco, the recipe calls for lemon juice, soda water, syrup, and -the wonderful yet optional- grapefruit juice.
Usually, these members come with an endearing first name like Tom, Sandy, Miguel, Pedro, etc., but it seems the christening of the Pisco version is still pending. At least, I am not aware of an established name.
One way or another, the Grapefruit Pisco Collins is a beautiful variation of the classic John Collins made with Gin.
The Chilcano Cocktail
The Chilcano is the third classic Pisco cocktail. It's a blend of ginger ale, lime juice, Angostura bitters, and Pisco.
The idea of mixing spirits with ginger ale was brought to Peru by Italian immigrants.
They used to mix their own grape spirit - Grappa - with ginger ale. And when they eventually ran out of supplies, they resorted to Peruvian Pisco.
-Grappa, by the way, does taste quite different from Pisco and does not qualify as a proper substitute.
Peruvian Elder Sour
This Pisco cocktail has only a few similarities to what we normally associate with a typical Sour cocktail. It's more of a Daisy, in fact.
The only parallel to a Sour is the concept of base spirit, sweetener, and citrus. Plus, optionally, you can add an egg white.
The citrus component of the drink is not lemon but lime, and the sweetener is not syrup but elderflower liqueur. But leaving the theoretical peculiarities aside, the Peruvian Elder Sour is one delicious cocktail.
Last but not least, the El Capitan, the fourth of the Peruvian classics. It's quite different from all the other drinks that rely on a citric component to complement the subtle grape flavor from the Pisco.
This drink is reminiscent of the classic Manhattan cocktail as the original recipe calls for two elements only: Pisco and Vermouth. More modern interpretations also incorporate a dash of cocktail bitters.
Dating back to the mid-1800s, the El Capitan is not only the oldest known Pisco cocktail but also a few years older than its cousin, the Manhattan.
Andean Dusk Cocktail
The Andean Dusk is an elegant mix of Pisco, rosé champagne, lemon juice, and sugar syrup.
With champagne and Pisco both being grape-based, the flavors of this cocktail work extremely well together.
Served in a champagne flute, it's a very sophisticated way to enjoy the Latin American spirit.