While both Chile and Peru claim the Pisco Sour as a national drink, each country creates it a little differently. In Peru, they use pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, egg white and bitters. While it’s widely reported that it was invented in Lima by an American bartender, Victor Morris and subsequently tweaked with egg white by Mario Bruijet, more recent evidence came to light a few years back with a pamphlet dating from 1903 and detailing the recipe. In short, its commonly cited origin story is probably off a couple of decades – but that doesn’t make it any less tasty of a drink.
The pisco sours we encountered in Peru were more often than not blended with ice rather than shaken. Another thing that stood out was the lack of the subtle unpleasant odor that is sometimes found in egg white cocktails. This may be because, as Difford’s Guide suggest, “the bitters also helps mask the wet dog-like smell of egg white.” Or it could simply be because so many are blended, which both dilutes the egg white as well as making it colder, both of which could make the odor less discernible. And, finally, most of the Pisco Sours we tried were made with Quebranta pisco, which was widely referenced there as the best choice for the cocktail. However, this is also the grape variety that makes up the majority of the country’s production, which leaves the question as to whether the choice is a matter of taste or availability.
Regardless of where you’ll find true Pisco Sour ground zero, we enjoyed many of them during our Peruvian travels and present you with our:
Top Five Pisco Sours in Lima, Peru
Bar Inglés at the Country Club Hotel: Having been around since 1927, Bar Inglés is a classic choice for a Pisco Sour cocktail in Lima. Waitstaff in crisp white jackets bring you menus with long lists of pisco and cocktails to choose from so you can really explore the different types of the spirit on offer. Plus: they make pretty mean gin martini should you want to take a little detour from the country’s national cocktail.
Museo del Pisco: For a more pedantic take on your pisco sour, head to the Museo del Pisco in Lima’s historic center. Don’t be mislead by the name – it’s a bar rather than an actual museum. However, they have a wide range of pisco and offer tastings that include four different versions of it while giving a solid rundown on its production methods and types. The classic pisco sour here is based on the Victor Morris recipe from the Morris hotel and it’s nicely balanced with a good texture. And for those with a sweet tooth: it’s located right next to the “Chocolate Museum”.
La Mar: This big, airy and buzzing ceviche restaurant does a nicely balanced pisco sour that was a unanimous and enthusiastic group favorite – and one that also helps the wait go easier in this no-reservations space. And there’s always a wait since it hit the World’s 50 Best Restaurants for Latin America. But that means the food is just as good as the drinks. We tried a trio of ceviche and highly recommend this spot.
Isolina: Isolina is another local favorite to hit the World’s 50 Best Restaurants for Latin America. So, there is sure to be a wait, but it’s also made much more bearable with their excellent pisco sours that you sip while rubbing elbows with the rest of the crowds filling the sidewalk, impatient for a table. Don’t let the wait deter you and do get the crispy fried pork ribs!
Posada del Angel III: Should you find your wait at Isolina an hour or more (as we did!), slip just down the street a few doors to sip on a pisco sour at Posada del Angel before rejoining the wait on the sidewalk. This is a low-key laid back little pizza joint with a sweet terrace and cheap and cheerful drinks that rated highly for our group. Though frozen, they were still balanced and showed off the spirit. Also they were topped with cinnamon, which at first gave us pause but turned out to add an interesting element to this nice little Pisco Sour.
Honestly, we didn’t really find a bad Pisco Sour in town. Well, maybe one (at chicken chain Pardo’s – but at least they were cheap at 2 for 1 prices). Additionally, if you’re travelling around other stand out Pisco Sours for us outside of Peru were at Rucula in Cuzco and on the PeruRail train ride from Machu Picchu where we got a private Pisco Sour demonstration in the bar car!