Pisco Punch

Pisco Punch

Pisco Punch, born during the Gold Rush days of the Barbary Coast

Born during the Gold Rush days of the Barbary Coast, the Pisco Punch is one of the most important cocktails in the history of San Francisco. It was imbibed by Mark Twain and a real-life Tom Sawyer over 100 years ago at Duncan Nicol’s Bank Exchange bar on Montgomery Street where the Transamerica Pyramid now stands. Kipling compared its color to the “glory of a tropical dawn” and “red clouds of sunset.” And from the late 1800’s, through the Great Earthquake of 1906, until the beginning of Prohibition, the Pisco Punch defined the culinary identity of San Francisco.

In fact, whenever a tourist visited San Francisco, they had to do three things:

  1. ride a cable car on the famous hilly streets of San Francisco
  2. watch the sun set over the Golden Gate
  3. and drink a Pisco Punch

That’s how legendary the Pisco Punch had become.

But Nicol took the secret recipe to the grave and the cocktail disappeared shortly thereafter due to Prohibition. Today, thanks to research by Toro-Lira and Duggan McDonnell, the Pisco Punch is back in the bars of the city where it was born. This version is adapted from “Drinking the Devil’s Acre” by McDonnell, where Lillet Rouge replaces the no longer available cocaine-laced Vin Mariani. Presenting, San Francisco’s legendary Pisco Punch.

  • 2 oz. Pisco, Italia grape
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 1 oz. Small Hands pineapple gum syrup
  • 1/2 oz. Lillet Rouge
  • dash Angostura bitters
  • an expressed orange peel

Mix the Pisco, lime juice, pineapple simple syrup, Lillet Rouge, and bitters in a shaker. Add ice and shake for 30 seconds to chill. Serve strained in a cocktail goblet and garnish with an expressed orange peel.


1 serving