Magazine article Out

Pisco Fever

Magazine article Out

Pisco Fever

Article excerpt

Let the golden age begin...again.

Pisco, a clear South American grape-based brandy with a golden hue, is something of a chimera. It has the nose of tequila without the burn, some of the flavor of a sweetened brandy with a lighter citrus finish, floral notes reminiscent of gin, and vodka's bracing sock in the jaw. Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s brought the Quebranta grape to South America, where it flourished in the valleys that straddled the borders of Peru and Chile, sparking a proprietary feud that time has not diminished. (To oversimplify: Chilean pisco is softer and more floral, Peruvian a bit rougher and higher in alcohol content.)

Sailors in the 1700s began ferrying the potent spirit from the port city of Pisco, Peru, to San Francisco, where it exploded in popularity during the Gold Rush. In the late 1800s, at the city's booming Bank Exchange bar, Duncan Nichols created the wildly popular pisco punch, a secret recipe that involved soaking pineapple in gum arabic. Around 1915, the creation of the foamy, bitters-topped pisco sour seemed like it would guarantee pisco a permanent place at the party, but Prohibition put an abrupt end to imported spirits and pisco faded from the U. …

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