Peruvian Pisco Brands You Should Be Trying Right Now

In the spirit of celebrating Peru Independence Day on July 28, Llama Inn and Llama San Bartenders share their favorite pisco brands.

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Pisco isn’t your typical brandy—at least not for those who are more familiar with European-style brandies. Like its cousins, Cognac and Armagnac, pisco is distilled from grapes. But unlike those oaky offerings, it’s not aged in wood (in fact, regulations forbid it). Instead, the spirit, which can be made only in Peru and Chile, must age or “rest” for at least three months in glass, stainless steel or other materials that don’t alter its chemical makeup, and must also remain additive-free. The resulting spirit is grassy, vegetal and earthy with a pale straw color.

Though pisco was popular with American bartenders in the late-1800s, it fell out of favor during the 20th century. It’s only recently started showing up in U.S. liquor stores and cocktail bars once again. And we couldn’t be more excited. Not only does the abundance of pisco inspire the return of classic cocktails like Pisco Sour and the Pisco Punch, but it also opens the door for new innovations.

Whether you’re in the mood for a pisco sour or simply want to expand your spirit knowledge, we asked Bar Director of Llama Inn, Lynnette Marrero, and Head Bartender of Llama San, Natasha Bermudez, about their favorite pisco brands available in the US and what they recommend mixing them with.

For anyone who has never tried pisco before, which one would you recommend?

Bermudez: Before we start, I want you to know that the pisco world is facing a huge pause due to the pandemic. Peru, like many other countries, has been so badly affected by it. It is important to recognize and understand that a lot of these amazing products are being harvested, produced, bottled and shipped by the people of their land and we need to pay respect and be appreciative of these things that they share with us. This being said, there's many great brands like Barsol and Pisco Logía that I enjoy and are sold in the US, but due to the pandemic some of these and many others are not available until the end of the year due to [a] stop [in] production.

There’s [a type of pisco] for everyone. But usually I would suggest starting with an Acholado. This style is considered a non-aromatic pisco, consisting of a blend of different pisco grape varietals which will be different for each brand.

Marrero: I would say approach it like tasting gin. If you want to try something floral and a touch sweeter try a Mosto Verde. If you can find an Italia, [that one] is awesome. Acholado will give you a nice broader view of pisco. Quebranta if you want to try your first pisco sour

In terms of pairings, what are the best cocktail ingredients to mix pisco with?

Bermudez: Personally, I think pisco pairs great with many things. I like to make anything from Negroni variations, using different types of amaro, to tropical punches, where I can add anything from fresh juices like pineapple, mango and passion fruit, along with baking spices and liqueurs. And even martini variations with vermouth or fortified wines like sherry.

Marrero: Anything! At the Llamas we break the rules. We use pisco in traditional classic cocktails. Our El Chapo, a benchmark cocktail at Llama Inn, is our version of a vesper with pisco and tequila in lieu of gin and vodka.

Lynette Marrero’s Favorites:

Capurro: This pisco is super elegant. Hand harvested single estate grapes, gently pressed a single time, naturally fermented into wine, Copper Pot distilled once to proof, and rested according to family tradition until ready for bottling. Like Macchu Pisco, the choice of grapes and farming techniques really show in the final blend. This one is family-owned and has a Latina master blender.

1615: This pisco is different from the one above. The quebranta initially highlights the very fruity character of wines produced from this red grape variety. Once aerated, it becomes extremely spicy and medicinal, with fleeting notes redolent of Junmaï Daï Ginjo sake.

Barsol: This was one of the first piscos I ever tried. Diego, the owner, was coming into the classic cocktail bars (like Flatiron where I worked). He was enthusiastically showcasing this spirit that was more well known in San Francisco at the time than New York. I fell in love with the aromatics and versatility. BarSol Selecto Acholado is the result of blending three of the finest pisco grape varieties: Quebranta, Italia, and Torontel. Balancing the best of all three, it gains structure from its base of 70% Quebranta, fruitiness and juiciness from the Italia, and a floral highnote from the Torontel.

Natasha Bermudez’s Favorites:

Macchu Pisco: Not only is the company run by two sisters, but they also have two other premium pisco brands within the same distillery [and] the product itself is delicious and widely available. Hits of grass and earthy notes on the nose, tropical fruit like passion fruit on the palate, with a round but dry finish. Not only can you make a delicious classic pisco sour with it, but I highly recommend trying a Hemingway Daiquiri variation.

Capurro Moscatel: This pisco is for those that enjoy stopping and smelling the roses. Perfect for a pisco and tonic or any gin based cocktail that you’ll like to try with pisco instead. Jasmine, orange blossom, and rose petals on the nose, beautiful salinity and citrus zest on the palate, with an elegant dry finish.

Capurro Acholado (2011): If you can get your hands on this one, do it. This pisco is for those that enjoy round and richer distillates. On the nose you will get strong butterscotch aromas. The palate [is] brighter than expected, with salted caramel notes and a luscious round finish. This one my friends, it's for sipping.

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