Whip Up This Refreshing Eucalyptus Pisco Sour
Bartender Lynnette Marrero shares her tips for mastering the classic Peruvian cocktail.
The first Saturday in February marks International Pisco Sour Day, a holiday honoring Peru’s most famous cocktail. The lime-green drink, which features a silky-smooth body and foamy white top, is a combination of pisco brandy, lime juice, sugar syrup, and egg white.
Pisco, like Bolivian singani, is experiencing a resurgence at cocktail bars, and the pisco sour is one of the best ways to harness the distinctly earthy spirit. “It's not heavy like a whiskey sour,” says Lynnette Marrero, bar director of New York City’s Llama Inn and Llama San. “Pisco is an unaged spirit, so you're combining these beautiful, floral aromas with a velvet egginess, and then you have the perfect balance of sweet and sour with the fresh lemon or lime juice and sugar sweetener.”
The pisco sour is said to have been invented by American bartender Victor Vaughen Morris, who moved to Peru to work for a railway company in 1904. But that origin story is a murky one, as Chileans have insisted the pisco sour was invented in their country. Both countries have their version of pisco, and according to Marrero, what separates the two varieties is the fact that Peruvian pisco is distilled to proof without oak aging.
“With a Peruvian pisco, I know I'm going to have the full expression of the grape, because it’s distilled without adding water, so I'm getting lots and lots of fruit in that distillation,” Marrero says.
Marrero has a go-to selection of pisco brands for her cocktails at Llama Inn. First, there’s women-owned Macchu Pisco’s La Diablada. Then there’s a newcomer, Suyo Pisco, who works with small farmers in a kind of co-op method. “They find these small distillers and bring their products into their bottles, so that they have a version one, and then they'll move on and keep adding to it—kind of in the same way that mezcal has different palenques.” And finally, the elegant Capurro Pisco, owned by Romina Scheufele, who learned about distilling from her grandfather.
Marrero’s classic pisco sour calls for two ounces of pisco, as well as a half-ounce of both lemon and lime, “to approximate the special limes that you’d find in Peru,” she adds. She also uses three ounces of a rich cane syrup, which adds texture, but you can mimic that thickness with a two-parts sugar, one-part water simple syrup. Put all those ingredients together in a shaker with about three-quarters of an ounce of egg white, shake, let emulsify, add ice, shake again, and strain into a glass.
As with most sour cocktails, the egg white becomes cured by the citrus, similar to the process of making ceviche. Marrero likes to add the egg white last, at the other side of the tin, so that the ingredients combine before she’s ready to shake. “That act of agitating—adding air and moving it—is what makes it work,” she says.
For those who are hesitant to delve into egg white cocktails, just know that salmonella lives on the outside of the egg, so as long as you’re washing it in cold water right before separating, there’s no danger. The egg white is an essential component in binding the ingredients together to create a desirable silkiness. And, according to Marrero, a well-shaken egg drink should not give off an eggy smell. For a vegan alternative, she suggests using aquafaba, the liquid found in canned chickpeas. “It will add a slight nuttiness, but it does have similar binding properties to make a silky cream,” she says.
If you happen to order a pisco sour at the bar, the foam factor is one of the best ways to tell if what you’re getting is the real deal, usually dependent on the quality of the egg. Marrero says one of the biggest mistakes bartenders make is using pre-separated, pasteurized egg whites, which end up resulting in a watery cocktail. “Was it shaken well? Is it alive? If you see one coming out that’s just kind of milky looking, it wasn't double-shaken, so you’re not getting all of that aroma and texture,” she says.
When it comes to food pairings, the possibilities are endless. While pisco sours go well with raw dishes—Marrero recommends some ceviche or nigiri sushi—they can also accompany something heavier, like a charcuterie board, due to the high acid that’s present in the drink.
For a variation on the classic, Marrero shares her eucalyptus pisco sour recipe, which adds eucalyptus tea to the cane sugar syrup. She adds, “It gives you this very refreshing aroma in your mouth, that makes you think of hiking up Machu Picchu and having this beautiful cooling effect—a pisco sour that brings you to high altitudes.”
Eucalyptus Pisco Sour
Glassware: sour glass
- ¼ teaspoon Chareau Aloe Liqueur
- 1 ounce lime juice
- ¾ ounce eucalyptus cane syrup (see recipe below)
- 2 ounce 1615 Quebranta pisco
- ¾ ounce egg white
1. Add all ingredients in a shaker EXCEPT eggwhite.
2. In the other half of the mixing tin, separate the egg white.
3. Pour the eggwhite into the other shaker and dry shake for 30 seconds.
4. Open the shaker, add ice, then close the shaker and shake again for another 30 seconds.
5. Strain into a coupe, or wine glass (no ice) and garnish with dried eucalyptus.
Eucalyptus cane syrup
- 1 cup water
- 2 eucalyptus tea bags (or 1 ½ teaspoons tea leaves)
- 1 ½ cups granulated cane sugar
1. Bring the water to a boil. Turn off heat and add the tea bags.
2. Steep the tea for approximately 4 minutes.
3. Remove the tea and add the sugar, stirring to dissolve.
4. Allow to cool completely before using. Will keep, refrigerated in an airtight container, for up to 2 weeks.