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 invented Pisco in the first place and while similar drinks may have been made around the same time in both places, the recipe that is considered canon was invented in Lima, Peru in the 1920s by Victor Morris. An American immigrant living in Peru, Victor Morris was most likely just making a sour with egg whites and using the local spirit pisco as the base. He also is most likely the real inventor of this cocktail. Mixing drinks in this style was very much an American and British way of making drinks. The local Peruvians or Chileans were most likely drinking their pisco straight.
But How Does it Taste
Many American’s have not heard of the Pisco Sour or even know what Pisco is for that matter. Pisco is typically a non oaked brandy from Peru and Chili. Both Countries lay claim to having invented it but no one knows for sure who made it first. Most likely both counties distilled wine and made Pisco around the same time. Pisco is a wonderful spirit that taste like a cross between brandy and vodka. Pisco has the normal brandy notes of grape and earthy red wine flavors but lacks the vanilla oak flavors of a French or American brandy. Since it is not aged it has a much drier taste too, similar to a vodka. Traditionally it is sipped neat so the subtle flavors can be savored.
The Pisco Sour taste kinda like a drier whiskey sour with egg whites. In fact, I prefer it over a whiskey sour with egg whites. The part that is concerning for most people before trying a Pisco Sour is the knowing it has egg whites in it. When people hear eggs they think scrambled eggs but they actually should be comparing it to a meringue. When shaken vigorously the egg whites foam into a sweet cocktail infused meringue that is absolutely divine. Not only is this a good tasting cocktail, it’s amazing.
Ordering 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.
The Most Important Ingredient
Cocktails with egg whites are actually difficult cocktails to get right and anyone who says otherwise is projecting a false image. Everyone who has made a fizzes or sour with egg whites has had one of these pop open on them while shaking, only to make a mess. The best advice I can pass on to making any cocktail with egg whites is it comes down to 2 things; Technique and chemistry. A common technique that works very well is the 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 end up working 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. For a cocktail with egg whites to properly foam you have to get the science right. 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.
- Keep it room temperature.
- Use an acid to help break the proteins hydrogen bonds and unfold it in addition to beating it.
- Use sugar to stabilize the foam from collapsing and to form smaller bubbles.
A mistake I made for a long time is using is using eggs fresh from the fridge. Even if I’m doing a dry shake I’m still starting off 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 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. Without using an acid it is much much harder to form a foam. 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 cocktail with egg whites with just liqueurs for sweeter alone and they have never formed a good foam. This needs actual simple syrup. If you don’t use sugar in your cocktail what will happen is the foam will form but it will collapse back into the liquid-y cocktail 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 also somehow makes the water “wetter” and helps keep the suspended air inside from combining into larger bubbles. This helps form a smoother micro bubble head.
cocktail 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. Also theres a lot of tips and tricks out there for making eggs foam 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 exact same. Its just the nature of the egg sometimes and I just accept it and make it again.
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