The great thing about exploring the world of spirits is that occasionally you find a random corner of the world that is making something delicious and unique — and that also has a binational rivalry attached to it as well. Such is the case with pisco, the grape brandy that’s claimed as the national booze by both Chile and Peru.
Pisco was first distilled in South America during the 16th century by Spanish settlers who were looking for an alternative to orujo, a pomace brandy that was being brought over from Spain. The new beverage caught on and since then, the production of pisco has grown, with Chile distilling 100 million liters and Peru 7.2 million liters.
Pisco Capel is from Chile and got its start during the Great Depression of 1929. Today Capel is one of the largest producers of pisco.
The aroma of Pisco Capel might be slightly off-putting at first as the alcohol in pisco is prominent. This aspect can be less than appetizing, but don’t let it fool you: This pisco is smooth and compulsively drinkable. It lacks the harshness of its Italian cousin, grappa, and in one final piece of good news: A bottle of Pisco Capel is a taste adventure you can purchase for a relatively low price ($15.99) at your local liquor store.
Color: Not quite colorless, though there is a slight hint of yellow in there likely due to the fact that the pisco ages for a brief period (five months in stainless steel barrels).
Aroma: Very herbal with notes of grass. There’s an underlying sweetness to it reminiscent of grapes.
Taste: Also slightly sweet with a bit grassiness. It sits lightly on the tongue, with a heft to the initial taste that gives you a little preview of the finish that goes with a nice, immediate burn that fades quickly.
The Mixmaster: Unless you’re a fan of straight brandy, grappa or Everclear, pisco is best consumed in it’s sublime cocktail, the pisco sour. There’s been a lengthy dispute between Chile and Peru over who invented the drink, and Peruvian permutations on the drink tend to add egg whites for a smooth creaminess and a dash of Angostura bitters for a little spice. If you don’t want to get fancy with egg whites, bitters and lemon juice, you can always grab some sour mix and add pisco instead of whiskey for a different kind of sour cocktail. Or, head over to the Clinton Street Social Club where their bartenders will make a pisco sour for you.
Overall: Whiskey sours not your thing? Getting tired of amaretto sours every weekend? Mix up your drinking routine with some pisco for a taste of a South American classic cocktails — it’s a taste adventure worth having.