At the 18 Reasons Pisco Cocktails class, 16 Pisco-loving students spent the evening making simple syrup, cracking eggs, crushing strawberries, squeezing limes, and cracking coffee beans to make 4 different cocktails and a special take-home infusion. But we also talked about the history of Pisco, its origins in the Ica Valley of Peru, its journey from Peru to San Francisco, and the history of each cocktail we made.
We started the class with a taste of pure Pisco, Campo de Encanto’s “Acholado”, and I explained how Pisco is the oldest spirit in the Americas — first distilled in Peru over 400 years ago using grapes brought from Spain. “Tell me what you smell, tell me what you taste, tell me about the land where this came from,” I asked the students, referring to its terroir. They responded with “flowers, fruits, nuts, citrus, pine, grapes!”
The space was set up with 4 different stations, each with a burner, pot, shaker, jigger, Pisco, and all the ingredients and fruit for the cocktails. So that everyone could get a sense of how to use all the props, I demoed how to make the Pisco Sour. And I also told the story of my first Pisco Sour when I was 10 years old as well as the origins of the Pisco Sour at the Morris Bar in Lima during the 1920’s, of course. I included the Strawberry Pisco in the menu to honor one of my favorite California seasonal fruits and the Peruvian captain Bodega y Quadra — the first person to chart Bodega Bay and to bring Pisco to San Francisco in 1777. The Chilcano, or Cuzco Mule, was a nice contrast to the fruity cocktail, and we served it on the rocks with Peychaud’s bitters to give the cocktail a more floral and sweet aroma.
The last cocktail was the legendary born-in-San-Francisco Pisco Punch created by Duncan Nicol at the Bank Exchange in the late 1800’s. When tourists visited San Francisco in yesteryear, there were 3 things they had to do: 1) ride a cable-car, 2) watch the sunset over the Golden Gate, and 3) drink a Pisco Punch — that’s how significant this cocktail was, I told the students that were eager to taste history. We ended the class making Pisco infused with coffee using beans from Four Barrel Coffee — Guatemala Antigua Pompeya and Ethiopia Welena Suke Quto, both fabulous complements to the floral tones of Encanto Pisco. Before dismissing the class, I handed each student a personalized Pisco Mixologist Certificate, and encouraged them to make Pisco cocktails and send me pictures to post on this blog.
This was my second event at 18 Reasons, and like the Peruvian Tasting in August, I was delighted that it was sold-out. But more than that, it was a wonderful opportunity to explore the historical Pisco connection between Peru and San Francisco with the 18 Reasons community. Now, I can’t wait to start planning the next event — stay tuned for details!
Special thanks to Campo de Encanto for providing the Pisco, to Four Barrel Coffee for the beans, to the 18 Reasons event organizer and volunteer for all their hard work, to Melissa Images for the beautiful photographs, and to all the students for making the class a real pleasure.