Bartending guides insist that Pisco sours are just another take on a classic, tart cocktail—at a family reunion, they’d be rubbing elbows with daiquiris and margaritas—but don’t tell that to Peru’s colorful capital. The foamy, frothy drink was invented in Lima, and it’s become an emblem of the city, served everywhere from glittering bars to sandwich joints.
“When people think Peru,” said Hotel B’s bar manager Axel Romero, “it’s Pisco sours, Machu Picchu, and ceviche.” The elegant Lima hotel, a restored Belle Époque mansion in the Barranco neighborhood, welcomes visitors with a quintessential version of the drink.
The starring ingredient is Pisco, an unaged, aromatic brandy that’s distilled from wine. While Pisco can be produced with any of eight grapes, Romero blends his Pisco sours exclusively with Pisco made with the Quebranta variety brought over by the Spanish during colonial rule. He shared his recipe.
1 ounce simple syrup
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
3 ounces Pisco
1 ounce (scant) egg whites
Fill a coupe glass with ice. In a cocktail shaker, combine the simple syrup, lime juice, Pisco, and egg white. Close the shaker and incorporate the ingredients with a 15-second “dry shake.”
Next, add 6-7 large ice cubes to the cocktail shaker, and shake vigorously for an additional 30 seconds. Discard the ice in the coupe glass, and strain the drink mixture into the glass until it’s half full.
With the strainer still covering the cocktail shaker, rock it in a circle to gently swirl the ice—Romero says this encourages a loftier foam to form. Pour the remaining drink into the coupe glass in a thin stream while gradually raising the shaker into the air. Gently add three drops of Angostura bitters in a crescent shape atop the foam, then use a toothpick or the end of a knife to swirl the bitters into a marbled pattern. Salud!