Pisco Sour – Classic Recipe & History

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Pisco Sour
Pisco Sour

The History Of The Pisco Sour.

There is a debate whether the Pisco Sour was invented in Peru or Chile, and it has merit. Both Peru and Chile argue who created Pisco in the first place, and while similar drinks may have been made around the same time in both areas, the recipe that is considered canon was invented in Lima, Peru, in the 1920s by Victor Morris. Victor Morris was most likely making a sour with egg whites and using the local spirit pisco as the base, an American immigrant living in Peru. He also is most likely the actual inventor of this cocktail. Mixing drinks in this style was an American and British way of making drinks. The local Peruvians or Chileans were most likely drinking their pisco straight.

What Does The Pisco Sour Taste Like?

Many Americans have not heard of the Pisco Sour or even know what Pisco is, for that matter. Pisco is typically an unoaked brandy from Peru and Chili. Both countries claim to have invented it, but no one knows who made it first. Most likely, both counties distilled wine and made Pisco around the same time. Pisco is a beautiful spirit that tastes like a cross between brandy and vodka. Pisco has the standard brandy notes of grape and earthy red wine flavors but lacks the vanilla oak flavors of French or American brandy. Since it is not aged, it has a much drier taste, too, similar to vodka. Traditionally it is sipped neat so the subtle flavors can be savored.

The Pisco Sour tastes like a drier whiskey sour with egg whites. (I prefer to call a whiskey sour with egg whites a Boston Sour). The part that is concerning for most people before trying a Pisco Sour is its knowledge of egg whites. When people hear eggs, they think of scrambled eggs but should be comparing them to a meringue; when shaken vigorously, the egg whites foam into a sweet cocktail infused with divine meringue. Not only is this a good-tasting cocktail, but it’s also amazing.

How To Order a Pisco Sour.

This isn’t really a cocktail you can just order anywhere. This maybe one you end up making at home more often than not. Most normal bars won’t make this for you or they won’t even have Pisco stocked. The Pisco Sour can be ordered at either: 1) A high end craft cocktail bar. 2) Bars that make other cocktails with egg whites. 3) A bar with the Pisco sour on the menu obviously. 4) A Peruvian or Chilean restaurant. And again there is no harm in politely asking if the bartender can make one.

How To Get Egg White Right In Cocktails.

Cocktails with egg whites are difficult cocktails to get right, and anyone who says otherwise is projecting a false image. Everyone who has made a fizz has had one of these pops open on them while shaking, only to make a mess. The best advice I can pass on to making any fizz cocktail is it comes down to 2 things; Technique and chemistry. A common technique that works very well is using a dry shake. A dry shake is shaking all your ingredients together without ice first to make forming the foam easier. The foam will still form with ice, but you will work twice as hard for half the result if you shake with ice first. The first shake is only about 20-30 seconds of vigorous shaking, but this is the part that forms most of your foam. A little tip here is to wrap a kitchen towel around the seal of your shaker because no matter how strong you are or how tight your grip, it will pop open a little. As the egg whites unfold, they can expand up to 8x their original size, thus increasing the pressure inside the shaker and forcing small amounts of the sugary egg mix to squirt out. Wrapping a small towel around the shaker will catch this and keep things clean.

Next and more important is chemistry. You have to get the science right for egg whites to foam properly. Denaturing/unfolding egg protein into a meringue is more science than brawn, and a friend of mine who is a baker once gave me this advice for how she made meringue at the bakery.

  1. Keep it room temperature.
  2. Use an acid to help break the proteins hydrogen bonds and unfold it in addition to beating it.
  3. Use sugar to stabilize the foam from collapsing and to form smaller bubbles.

A mistake I made for a long time was using eggs fresh from the fridge. Even if I’m doing a dry shake, I’m still starting with cold ingredients. So take the eggs out and let them come to room temperature first. Cold egg protein is much more stable and difficult to break apart than if it is at room temperature. The next tip is to use acid. Bakers will use cream of tartar as the acid helps accelerate the denaturing process along with beating it. In the cocktail, we use lemon or lime juice. It is much, much harder to form a foam without using an acid. The last bit of advice is to use sugar to stabilize the foamed protein from collapsing. A sweet liqueur alone isn’t enough. I’ve tried making fizzes with just liqueurs for sweeter alone, and they have never formed a good foam. This needs real simple syrup. If you don’t use sugar in your Fizz, what will happen is the foam will develop, but it will collapse back into the liquid just as fast, and you will be left with a thin layer of lame bubbles on top. It will still taste the same and be good, but that beautiful foam will be gone, and for these drinks, the large foam head is the garnish. The sugar makes the water “wetter” and helps keep the suspended air inside from combining into larger bubbles. This helps form a smoother micro bubble foam.

Cocktails with egg whites are some of the most elegant and sublime cocktails, but they are not the easiest to make. Eventually, you can get to a point where you can make them correctly and consistently, but it can take a while and many failed attempts. Hopefully, the tips I gave help shorten that journey. There are a lot of tips and tricks out there for making fizzes, and I tried to keep mine reasonable and realistic, but see what works for you. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and still, I have the occasional one that doesn’t foam up well, even though I make them all the same. It’s just the nature of the egg sometimes, and I accept it and make it again.


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Pisco Sour

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Course: DrinksCuisine: Peruvian






Total time



Learn how to make the a classic Pisco Sour.


  • 1 Whole Egg White

  • 2/3 oz Lemon Juice

  • 1/2 oz Simple Syrup

  • 2 oz Pisco Sour

  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters


  • Combine all ingredients except bitters in the shaker without ice. Shake dry for 30 second – egg foams better when not cold.
  • Now add ice to the shaker. Vigorously shake again till the shaker is ice cold and frosted.
  • Strain into glass to remove ice shards. Add a couple drops of bitters on top to decorate



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