The Pisco Punch is one of the few classic Pisco Cocktails with a long history. Not many cocktails are made with the Brandy from Peru - or is it Chile?
The original recipe dates back to the 19th century but was never written down and unfortunately died with its creator.
However, luckily, the ingredients and the approximate ratios survived. So, the cocktail continues to be one of the most popular Pisco drinks today.
Ingredients of the Pisco Punch
Depending on where you look, the ingredients of the Pisco Punch will vary slightly. Yet, the original elements are Pisco, lime, pineapple, gum arabic, and distilled water.
Gum arabic isn't always that easy to get and, therefore, sometimes gets replaced with sugar syrup or other sweet components.
But it creates a beautiful smoothness and is an essential part of the Pisco Punch.
Pisco is a spirit distilled from fermented grapes with an average ABV of 38 to 48%. Quality Pisco is usually pretty smooth, slightly fruity, and just a little sweet in taste.
It is the national liquor of Chile and of Peru. In fact, there's an ongoing dispute over who invented the spirit and who makes the best Pisco Cocktails.
You wonder what's the difference? Piscos from Peru and those from Chile are not exactly the same. They differ in taste and also have different regulations regarding production.
However, they are similar enough, and both versions of the spirit make for a great Pisco Punch. Just make sure to avoid cheap low-quality products.
If you want to know more about the Latin American spirit and why Chile and Peru cannot find common ground regarding its origin, read this guide on Pisco.
Lime juice the Pisco Punch
Fruit juices in cocktails should always be natural and without additional sweeteners.
Especially with citrus fruits, it is vital to always use freshly squeezed juices in cocktails. Bottle citrus juice has an artificial acidity to it that will be palpable in your drink.
Here's also a more detailed explanation of lime juice in cocktails.
Pineapple turns an otherwise more tangy Sour Cocktail into a tropical drink.
I like to use freshly squeezed pineapple juice in our Pisco Sour. Same as with the limes, fresh 100% natural fruit juice leads to considerably better results in mixed drinks.
If you don't want to get fresh pineapples, look for bottled versions that are 100% natural, cold-pressed from fresh fruit, and unsweetened.
Gum arabic syrup in the Pisco Punch
Gum arabic goes by many names. Perhaps you know it as acacia gum, Indian gum, or Senegal gum.
It's a natural gum formed by the hardening of the sap of acacia trees. It's used in food as a thickening agent or an emulsifier.
In this Pisco Punch, the gum arabic is added to the simple syrup and creates a thicker and smoother mouthfeel by better binding the ingredients.
The syrup takes off the alcoholic edge of the Pisco, and the sugar counteracts the tanginess from the lime. It's also what makes the Pisco Punch extremely easy to drink.
If you want to make your own, here's a recipe for homemade gum syrup.
Some recipes combine gum arabic syrup and the pineapple part and make a pineapple-infused gum syrup instead.
Also, a splash of distilled water can be added for extra dilution of your Pisco Punch.
History of the Pisco Punch
The origin of the Pisco Punch goes back to the late 19th century and the Bank Exchange and Billiard Saloon.
The invention of the Pisco Punch
The renowned Saloon in San Francisco opened its doors in 1854, and the bartender was a creative guy named Duncan Nichols.
Nichols was the one who brought the Pisco Punch to life and made it the most served drink at the Saloon from sometime in the 1870s through to the beginning of Prohibition in 1920.
In 1920, the Bank Exchange Saloon had to close its doors. Soon after, Duncan Nichols died without disclosing its recipe to anyone.
Consequently, the Pisco Punch fell into oblivion. But pre-prohibition, the drink was a true crowd-pleaser and even a literary inspiration.
Talk of a secret ingredient
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, writer Rudyard Kipling felt so overwhelmed that he poetically wrote about the drink:
I have a theory it is compounded of cherub’s wings, the glory of a tropical dawn, the red clouds of sunset, and fragments of lost epics by dead masters.
And other accounts made clear that the Pisco Punch must have been tremendously potent: the most lethal alcoholic bomb ever conceived by man.
Despite everything, the drink tasted almost lemonade-like. That led to speculation about a secret ingredient. Some say that, perhaps, Nichols had mixed cocaine into his concoction. But nothing can be proven now.
Either way, the Pisco Punch is back and now served without any potentially mysterious ingredients. So grab your shaker and mix a delicious Pisco Punch.
- 1 oz Peruvian Pisco
- 0.75 oz pineapple juice freshly squeezed
- 0.75 oz lime juice freshly squeezed
- 0.5 oz gum arabica syrup
- 1 tsp distilled water
- Add all ingredients into your shaker with ice and shake for 15 - 20 seconds
- Strain over ice into your cocktail glass
- Garnish with a slice of fresh pineapple