The California Native International Adventures

Since 1983

From The California Native Newsletter:

Pisco ¡Salud!

Bottle of Pisco
It is the subject of heated debates, media coverage and national pride. Peru and Chile continue to fight even now. It is not a war or border dispute but a fight over which country has the right to claim “Pisco” as their national drink.

Pisco is a clear brandy, popular for centuries in both Peru and Chile. The white muscat grapes, from which pisco is distilled, were first grown in Peru by the Spaniards in the 16th century. At that time Peru and Chile were both part of Spain’s American empire. When they became independent countries, both claimed the liquor as their own. Today, the grapes are grown in only two places—around the town of Pisco in the Ica Valley of Peru, and in central Chile in the Elqui Valley, called the “zona pisqueria.”

The name Pisco comes from a Quechuan (Incan) word, although there is some dispute as to what it actually means. Some believe it comes from the word “pisquo,” that literally translates as “flying bird,” referring to the effect it has on the drinker, while others believe it is the name of the clay pots in which the Indians stored “chicha” (Andean corn beer). Another theory has to do with the Peruvian port of Pisco. In the 1700’s, the King of Spain banned wine from the colony, so most of the grapes were made into the brandy. The port grew very popular in the 19th century as seamen flocked there because of the lucrative trade in guano. They drank the local brandy, which eventually took the name of the town itself.

Since Peru had a town named Pisco, in 1939 the Chileans renamed their town of Union, in the Elqui Valley, to Pisco Elqui.

In 1961 Chile banned imports of Peruvian Pisco so Peru banned Chilean pisco from their country.

Although they are made in the same way from the same variety of grapes, there is a difference in sweetness and alcoholic content between the two countries’ piscos.

A popular drink in Chile is the “piscola,” a mixture of Pisco and Coke. The national drink of both Peru and Chile, is the rich “Pisco Sour.”

The dispute has gone on for decades but if the powers that be of each country would just sit down over a few Pisco Sours, they could probably iron out an agreement in no time!

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Peruvian Pisco Sour
  • 3 parts Peruvian Pisco
  • 2 parts lemon juice
  • 1 egg white
  • 1-1/2 parts sugar
  • ice cubes
  • 3-4 drops Angostura Bitters
Mix the egg white and lemon juice in a blender. Add sugar, ice and Pisco. Pour into cocktail glass, top with a few drops of Angostura bitters, and serve.
Chilean Pisco Sour
  • 3 parts Chilean Pisco
  • 1-1/2 parts lemon or lime juice
  • 1 egg white
  • 1-2 Tablespoons sugar
  • Ice cubes
Shake all ingredients well in a cocktail shaker. Pour into a small, chilled cocktail glass and serve.
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