One of most popular and simple Pisco cocktails to make is the Chilcano — fill a glass with ice, pour a little bit of Pisco, add some lime, maybe some simple syrup, top off with ginger ale, a dash of Angostura bitters, and you are done. But what if we use tonic water instead of ginger ale? Is it still a Chilcano? What if we broke the rules and didn’t use citrus? What if we infused the Pisco with coffee and used orange bitters instead? Well, then you would have a Pisco Coffee Tonic, wouldn’t you? Yes, and it would be damn good.
It’s no secret that I am fascinated by the history of the Gin & Tonic, specially the part where the cinchona bark from Peru was used for the quinine that was added to the tonic water as a prophylactic against malaria. But I recently learned that the oldest recipe for gin, which dates back to 1495, shows that gin was made from a wine distillate. Which makes that early gin a grape eau de vie, and a distant relative to Pisco. So, in some ways, the Gin & Tonic and the Chilcano are distant relatives too.
Inspired by this history, and by the popular coffee tonic served at Saint Frank Coffee, I began to break the rules for the Chilcano — replacing the ginger ale, removing the citrus, keeping the sweet, modifying the bitter, and infusing the spirit. The result is this Pisco Coffee Tonic, a cocktail that is not quite a Chilcano and not quite a Gin & Tonic, but is maybe somewhere in between two of my favorite drinks. And that is a pretty good place to be if you are a cocktail.
- 2 oz. Encanto Pisco Acholado infused with coffee
- 1 oz. simple syrup
- dash of Angostura orange bitters
- ice cubes
- 3 oz. Fever Tree Indian Tonic Water
- orange round for garnish
Combine the Pisco, simple syrup, and bitters in a tumbler glass with the ice cubes, stir to chill. Top off with tonic water and garnish with an orange round.
To make the simple syrup, combine 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan, bring to a slow boil, stir, and simmer until the sugar dissolves completely. Let cool before using. To make the Pisco infused with coffee, crack 1/4 cup of coffee beans using a mortar and pestle, then combine the beans with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and 1 cup Pisco in a mason jar. Seal the jar with a lid, shake, and let infuse for 1 week. Strain through a coffee filter before using and discard the beans. For the coffee beans, I used Saint Frank Las Nubes from Honduras, which I found had notes that complemented the flavor profile of the grape varietals in the Pisco.