Little did we know how controversial the humble Pisco would turn out to be. Both Chile and Peru vehemently claim ownership of the distilled grape-based spirit. Strict laws exist in each country to protect its production. Even Argentina tried to muscle in on the action, but after some investigation they bowed out after tracing the origins back to Chile as early as 1733. We visited the Mistral distillery, named after Nobel prize-winner Gabriela Mistral, to find out more about Chilean Pisco production.
What is it?
Pisco is a popular South American spirit, made from the distillation of fermented grape juice. It is often colourless, or amber, and tastes a lot like the Italian spirit Grappa. Back in the day, anyone who owned a state in Chile had a Pisco Cellar where they would keep the bottles wedged inside their walls for freshness. These days, it is most commonly enjoyed in Pisco Sour cocktails all over the world.
The Elqui Valley in Northern Chile is where the Pisco action happens. The weather, altitude and soil make for perfect Pisco production. Unlike Peruvian Pisco, Chilean Pisco is aged in wood barrels and is sometimes mixed with water to reach the desired alcohol content. The majority of Chilean Pisco is made from the Muscat Grape.
While the people of Peru and Chile argue about it’s origin, the rest of us enjoy punchy Pisco Sours made with lemon juice, sugar syrup and egg whites. If you are lucky, you might find flavoured Pisco Sours made with fresh fruit or unusual mixes such as Basil or Rosemary. My favourite is a Mango Pisco Sour – watch this space for the recipe!