One of my favorite pop-up venues in San Francisco is hands-down Omnivore Books. Why? Not only do I get the pleasure of supporting the authors that stop by to talk about their new books, but I get to surprise the audience with Pisco cocktails and Peruvian desserts. And who doesn’t like surprises? Would you like a Pisco cocktail? Yes please! The cocktails and desserts that I make for an event at Omnivore Books are often inspired by the author’s book, and for Toby Sonneman’s Lemon: A Global History event I enjoyed making a Zesty Lemonade Pisco cocktail and a dessert with Pisco and lemon zest.
I’ve been told that serving a Pisco cocktail before a talk sets the mood, and judging by the smiles on everyone’s face after taking a sip of the Pisco cocktail, we were going to have a good time. From Asia, to the Middle East, Italy, the Caribbean, and North America, Toby traced the history and many uses of lemons, read from her book, and showed us photographs. In one of my favorite stories she told how British sailors in the Caribbean discovered that lemon juice cured scurvy and that they drank lemon juice with their rum and water grog. Add some simple syrup, ice, shake, serve with mint, and you have a refreshing and life-saving cocktail.
The start of the Q&A was my cue to prep the dessert, Pisco Balls garnished with fresh lemon zest, and judging by the comments from the audience, it was even more popular than the Pisco cocktail. During the Q&A, I was delighted when one of the audience members raised her hand and asked the speaker if she had the recipe for the dessert in her book. In response I smiled and said the recipe was in my blog. So, it seems, that in addition to starting a talk with a Pisco cocktail, ending a talk with a Pisco dessert is also a good thing. A culinary history lesson from a passionate author, a warm and inquisitive audience, an opportunity to enjoy Peruvian desserts and Pisco, all in a wonderful venue? That’s just another Wednesday night at Omnivore Books.
Thank you to Omnivore Books for inviting me to be part of this event, to the Culinary Historians of Northern California for co-hosting, and to Toby for sharing your passion with us in San Francisco. It was a pleasure to share Peruvian culture and Pisco cocktails with you, cheers!
INGREDIENTS FOR THE ZESTY LEMONADE
- 1 cup fresh lemon juice
- 3 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
This recipe requires about 12 lemons total, 10 for juicing and 2 for garnish rounds. In addition to the ingredients, you’ll need a pot for making the simple syrup, a measuring cup, and a large jar for storing the lemonade.
- Slice the lemons in half and squeeze 1 cup of fresh lemon juice into a measuring cup. Set aside and save the lemon skins.
- In a pot over medium heat combine the sugar with 2 cups water, stir and simmer until the sugar dissolves. Turn off heat, place 10 lemon skin halves in the pot, skin side down, cover, and let sit for 20 minutes.
- Use a tong to remove the lemon skins, squeezing any liquid that was absorbed back into the pot. Save the zesty simple syrup and discard the lemon peels.
- In a large jar, strain and combine the lemon juice and zesty simple syrup with 1 cup water. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
4 cups of zesty lemonade
INGREDIENTS FOR THE COCKTAIL
- 2 oz. Pisco
- 4 oz. zesty lemonade
- 8 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
- lemon round and mint sprig for garnish
Pour the zesty lemonade and Pisco into a tumbler glass filled with ice. Add the Peychaud’s bitters, stir and garnish with a lemon round and mint sprig.