The Pisco Punch is one of the few classic Pisco Cocktails with a long history. Not many cocktails are made with the popular brandy from South America.
The original recipe dates back to the 19th century but was never written down and unfortunately died with its creator. However, the ingredients and the approximate ratios were passed down. So, the cocktail continues to be one of the most popular pisco drinks today.
Quick Facts Pisco Punch
- Method: shaken
- Flavor profile: mild, slightly fruity, slightly sour
- How to serve it: over ice
- Best glassware: old fashioned glass
- Alcohol content: ~ 16.5%, 19 grams of alcohol per serving
- 1 Cocktail Shaker
- 1 Jigger
- 1 Hawthorne Strainer
- 2 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 - optional
- Add all ingredients into your shaker with ice and shake for 15 - 20 seconds2 oz Peruvian Pisco, 0.75 oz pineapple juice, 0.75 oz lime juice, 0.5 oz gum arabica syrup, 1 tsp distilled water
- Strain over ice into your cocktail glass
- Garnish with a slice of fresh pineapple
Ingredients of the Pisco Punch
Depending on where you look, the ingredients of the Pisco Punch will be different. Yet, pisco, citrus juice, and pineapple are a fixture. In our favorite recipe, we add Gum Arabic and an optional splash of water:
- Pisco: The spirit distilled from fermented grapes has an average ABV of 38 to 48%. Quality pisco is usually pretty smooth, slightly fruity, and just a little sweet in taste. You can use both, pisco from Chile or Peru. Just make sure you get a quality bottle. Barsol is a solid choice, or Quarto Gallos, if you can get it. 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: Fruit juices in cocktails should always be natural, with no additional sweeteners. Especially with citrus fruits, it is vital to always use freshly squeezed juices in cocktails. Bottle citrus juice has an artificial acidity that you can taste in your drink.
- Pineapple Juice: Pineapple turns this Sour Cocktail into a tropical drink. We like to use freshly squeezed pineapple juice. If you do not want to go through the trouble, look for bottled versions that are 100% natural, cold-pressed from fresh fruit, and unsweetened.
- Gomme Syrup: This special type of syrup creates a beautiful smoothness and is an essential part of our Pisco Punch. Its secret ingredient, Gum Arabic, goes by many names, such as acacia gum or Senegal gum. It is a natural gum formed by the hardening of the sap of acacia trees and used as a thickening agent or an emulsifier.
Why We Use Gomme Syrup in Our Recipe
In our Pisco Punch, we add gum arabic to our simple syrup to create a thicker and smoother mouthfeel. The velvety syrup also takes off the alcoholic edge of the pisco, and the sugar counteracts the tanginess from the lime. That is why this Pisco Punch is so easy to drink.
Gomme Syrup isn't always easy to get. Therefore, you also can replace it with simple syrup or other sweet components. If you want to make your own, check out our recipe for homemade gomme syrup.
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 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. Only shortly after, Duncan Nichols died without disclosing its recipe to anyone. Thus, the Pisco Punch fell into oblivion. Nevertheless, 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.
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 practically like lemonade. That led to belief about a secret ingredient. Some say that, perhaps, Nichols had mixed cocaine into his concoction. It was never more than speculation, though. No evidence actually indicates that cocaine was part of the mix.
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.
If you are looking for ways to use up the bottle of pisco you have bought, how about trying some of these recipes: