It’s funny just how many anniversaries the drinks industry likes to boozily enjoy. In fact, someone should seriously consider producing a small, pocket-sized calendar marking all the key events on it - that way you would never be far from a different celebratory glass of something tasty.
One of the most recent of these libatious appreciations, London Pisco Sour Week (so popular that it has been extended from merely a day-long event,) sounds like it may have been made up by Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer on Shooting Stars. However it is most definitely a very good excuse to explore this classic South American gem in all its glory.
In case you are not familiar with pisco, here it is in a nutshell. Pisco is a brandy or eau-de-vie, made from a variety of grapes, (the most popular being Quebranta, Torontel, Muscat and Italia) often blended together, which grow in both Peru and Chile. The art of distillation was likely to have been introduced to the region around the 16 Century by Spanish Conquistadors and it has become a formidable export around the world, particularly in San Francisco, which is really its spiritual home outside of South America.
However, there is something of a war of words (or tasting notes, if you like) raging between the Chilean and Peruvian producers, who both lay passionate claim to the origins of the spirit.
Without wanting to stir this particular cocktail of hornets, both products are actually quite different beasts from a flavour perspective. Peruvian pisco is a tiny industry compared to its neighbours (producing just over 7 million litres, compared to Chile’s 100 million) and some of the smaller producers have a distinct focus on single grape varieties and vintages. It is aged for around three months (in stainless steel or glass) and the resulting clear spirit is bottled without dilution - in one respect, a true representation of the personality of the spirit.
Chilean pisco is more widely available internationally, rested for a minimum of 60 days (often in oak casks, which gives the spirit a woody flavour and colour) and is also often bottled at a much lower ABV than its Peruvian counterpart – sometimes as low as 30%.
Classic cocktails: in pictures
Classic cocktails: in pictures
The daiquiri is one of the most important classic cocktails as it demonstrates the perfect balance between sweet and sour, strong and weak. For a recipe, visit http://ind.pn/10E9sh6
2/9 Tom Collins
In England, this drink is traditionally credited to John Collins, a bartender who worked at Limmer’s Hotel, Conduit Street, London. For a recipe, visit http://ind.pn/1n99NlU
3/9 Sweet Manhattan
There are a number of origins suggested for this drink, most dating back to the 19th Century. Try a cherry, chocolate or orange bitter for subtle flavour differences in your Sweet Manhattan. For a recipe, visit http://ind.pn/1sYUeQx
4/9 Classic Vodka Martini
Shaken or stirred, wet or dry, garnished with an olive or twist the possibilities are seemingly endless. For a recipe, visit http://ind.pn/1EjMaga
5/9 Bloody Mary
The idea of a perfect Bloody Mary can be as personal as the Martini. Number one, experiment with spices! For a recipe, visit http://ind.pn/1urTnX8
6/9 French ‘75
Although The Bellini might be the best-known champagne cocktail, the French '75 is an all-time classic – and some would argue more delicious. For a recipe, visit http://ind.pn/1vGBmTt
Delicious on the rocks or frozen or even shaken up with fig puree, egg white and lime (the Autumnal Tradicional Sour) there is always one to suit everyone. For a recipe, visit http://ind.pn/1yGWVZn
The Mojito is one of the archetypal iconic cocktails. Its history lays in Havana which is the Godfather of Spanish Style rum and the birthplace of many great cocktails. For a recipe, visit http://ind.pn/1uQ0Dxo
9/9 Pina Colada
With its exotic ingredients, indulgent nature, together with tropical heat refreshment, it's no wonder it's become a holiday makers staple. For a recipe, visit http://ind.pn/1q22FTm
Despite their differences, both piscos have really forged a place for each other. Some connoisseurs will tell you to sip Peruvian pisco neat, much in the same way you would with a whisky or grappa. But the blended varieties from both countries (called Acholado) are absolutely perfect for whipping up a Pisco Sour - a simple but effective blend of 2 measures of pisco, ½ an egg white, one measure of lime juice and ½ a measure of sugar syrup, all shaken over ice with the intensity of an earthquake. Once strained into a small glass, the wonderfully frothy top is then drizzled with a few dashes of bitters for a spicy counterpoint to the sweet, fruity and citrus mix.
As labour intensive as it is to make (try ordering a round of ten Pisco Sours and watch the strained-but-secretly-delighted look appear on your bartender’s face) it is the perfect accompaniment with ceviche-style food.
As a result, the Peruvian Trade and Investment Office have teamed up with seven of the capital’s best Peruvian restaurants - including the highly recommended Lima Floral near Covent Garden - to host London Pisco Sour Week, which runs from the 1 to the 8 February. Each one will be celebrating the drink in different ways and a wristband can be obtained from any of the participating eateries, entitling you to £5 Pisco Sours wherever you decide to head.
Lima Floral will also be exploring the individual flavours on offer in a £10 tasting flight of three different piscos, whilst Ceviche on Frith Street have an incredible pisco bar, serving a mind-boggling collection of infused piscos, all macerating in jars on a shelf above the bar.
For more information, visit the London Pisco Sour Week Facebook page