The day that Pisco Sour fans all over the world have been waiting for is finally here — the first Saturday in February is National Pisco Sour Day! Here in San Francisco, we are fortunate to have many great bars that serve Pisco, but with fresh ingredients, the right tools, and good technique, you can make a Pisco Sour that looks and tastes just right. Here are some tips for making a great Pisco Sour cocktail.
The most important ingredient is of course the Pisco. When selecting a bottle, make sure the Pisco is made in the Ica Valley of Peru, and accept no imitations or substitutions. Choose limes that are juicy and ripe, they should be firm but not hard, with a bright green color. White sugar and water is all you need to make simple syrup, and a large brown egg will do for the egg whites. Finally, you’ll need ice cubes and a bottle of Angostura bitters.
Use a small shot glass or jigger to measure the ingredients. For small measures, they are more accurate that large measuring cups. To make a thick egg white froth, use a shaker instead of a blender. Measure out enough white sugar for the simple syrup in a small bowl, and use another bowl to hold the egg white. A small knife is useful for slicing the lime, and a fork will help to loosen the egg white. Even if the shaker has a built in strainer, use a separate strainer instead for a creamier froth when pouring.
Once you have all the ingredients and tools laid out in a mise en place, you are ready to follow the recipe. If you make your own simple syrup, use equal parts sugar and water by volume, and let the simple syrup cool before using. Squeeze the lime by hand, but if you use a citrus squeezer, don’t squeeze it completely to prevent the most bitter juice from being released. Use a fork to loosen the egg white before mixing with the other ingredients. Shake really vigorously to mix well and create a good froth.
If you look carefully at the recipe and the volume of all the ingredients, simple math will yield a cocktail that is about 8 oz., so it’s important to choose the right glass to serve it. Typically, a Pisco Sour is served in a tumbler, but if you use a coupe or Martini glass make sure it’s the right size. Alternatively, you can pour half a serving in two small glasses. The froth should be thick enough so that 3 drops of Angostura bitters will float on top of the froth and not sink through or spread over the cocktail.
To make sure you’ve poured a great Pisco Sour, you need to taste it. First, taste all the ingredients on their own, a shot of Pisco, a sip of the simple syrup, a squeeze of lime, and a few drops of the bitters. Now, rinse your palate with a glass of water and raise the glass of Pisco Sour. Before taking a sip, you should be able to catch the aroma of the bitters floating on top. The Pisco you tasted on it’s own should come through in the first sip, not too sweet or diluted, but balanced with all the ingredients.
It’s been almost a century since Victor Morris served the first Pisco Sour at his bar in Lima, Peru, and though the recipe has remained virtually the same, every bar and every mixologist adds their own touch to this classic cocktail. With a little practice, you’ll be pouring a Pisco Sour like a seasoned mixologist. And after one sip, you’ll be fluent in Spanish — ¡Salud y Feliz Dia Nacional del Pisco Sour!