Pisco Punch – Classic 1890s Recipe & History

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Pisco Punch

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Course: DrinksCuisine: American






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Learn how to make a classic Pisco Punch.


  • 1/2 oz 1/2 Lemon Juice

  • 1/3 oz 1/3 Gum Syrup

  • 1 oz 1 Pineapple Juice

  • 2 oz 2 Pisco


  • Technique: Saxe Soda Shake
  • Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker.
  • Add one medium or two small ice cubes to the cocktail shaker and shake until the ice fully melts.
  • Without a strainer, pour the chilled and aerated drink into a glass with ice.


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The History Of The Pisco Punch.

Invented in the 1890s at the Bank Exchange Saloon in San Francisco, the Pisco Punch recipe was kept a closely guarded secret by its creator Duncan Nicol. Over time, people learned that Duncan Nicols punch contained Pisco, gum syrup, pineapple juice, and lemon juice, but the exact proportions have always remained hidden. Mr. Nicol would even pre-mix large drink containers in the backroom by himself so no one could see him make it. Some believed it even contained some cocaine. Once prohibition kicked in in 1920, Duncan Nicol shut the doors of the Bank Exchange Saloon and retired from bartending at the age of 65. Even after closing his bar, he never revealed the full recipe. So keep in mind that this is not the original recipe, but an assumption of what that original recipe could have been based on comparing all the different versions of the drink.

The Pisco Punch’s Secret Ingredient And Original Recipe.

No one knows the exact recipe for this cocktail, as its creator, Duncan Nicol, took it to the grave with him in 1926. Duncan Nicols went to great lengths to ensure his Pisco punch recipe stayed a secret and would pre-mix it alone. When he sold it, people began to guess that it most likely contained pisco, gum syrup, pineapple juice, and lemon juice. Many even believed it had cocaine as a secret ingredient to provide a bit of a pick me up. That wouldn’t be too unusual during that period as cocaine was not regulated, and several other beverages had it. (That’s actually how Coca-Cola started as an American version of French coca wine.) No one ever found out about the promotions, though the recipe I have provided here is an averaging of all the different variations of this cocktail. Averaging doesn’t always produce the best recipes, but I think it’s spot on.

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