The Pisco Sour’s flavors will transport you to South America. Follow our easy Pisco Sour recipe and craft the iconic cocktail at home in just a few minutes.
The Pisco Sour is so iconic that two South American countries, Chile and Peru, claim it as their own.
While most cocktail historians give credit to Peru for creating the Pisco Sour (more about that later), there’s no debate regarding the sour drink’s popularity.
In recent decades, the Pisco Sour has expanded it reach beyond South America to become a bar standard in every continent. (We have to think that someone’s serving Pisco Sours at an Antarctica base station. Right?)
Discover more popular sour cocktails.
After sipping Pisco Sours at various bars both in Lisbon and during our travels, we decided it was time to craft Pisco Sours at home. After we easily mastered the pre-prohibition cocktail’s appearance and flavors, it wasn’t long before we added the foamy drink to our cocktail rotation.
Discover more pre-prohibition cocktails to craft at home.
Our Pisco Sour recipe is similar to the Peruvian version. (Crafted with pisco, limón de Pica juice and powdered sugar, the Chilean version doesn’t have a frothy topper.) It’s not that we’re choosing sides. Ok, maybe we are. Either way, we prefer the Peruvian inclusion of acidic lime juice and creamy froth.
Discover more cocktails with creamy froth.
What Is the Pisco Sour?
The classic Pisco Sour is crafted with pisco, fresh lime juice, simple syrup and egg white. A few drops of aromatic bitters add the finishing touch.
With its frothy top layer and complex flavors, the Pisco Sour seems like it should be difficult to craft at home. It isn’t. If you can shake and strain and have some pisco on hand, then you can craft a Pisco Sour.
History of the Pisco Sour
European colonists developed pisco (from grapes they brought from the old world) in both Chile and Peru centuries ago. It didn’t take long for locals in both countries to start doctoring the grape-based brandy with mixers like lime juice. However, it was an American bartender, Victor Vaughen Morris, who gets credit for inventing the Pisco Sour at his Lima bar, aptly named Morris’ Bar, more than a century ago.
Morris originally crafted the Pisco Sour without egg white or bitters as a riff on the Whiskey Sour. Those ingredients came later and likely contributed to the drink’s global fame. Ernest Hemingway drank Pisco Sours (what didn’t he drink?) back in the day and Anthony Bourdain did the same decades later as documented on his No Reservations TV show.
Regardless of its origin, the Pisco Sour is so popular in Chile and Peru that both countries have made the Pisco Sour their national drink. Peru went one step further in 2003 when it instituted Dia Nacional del Pisco Sour (i.e. National Pisco Sour Day). Occurring on the first Saturday of each February, the holiday, which features street fairs, tasting sessions and live music, is an annual event worth attending.
The Peruvian Pisco Sour, at its essence, is a traditional sour drink crafted with the following ingredients:
You probably have all of these ingredients at home with the exception of pisco. Good news – you should be able to buy a bottle of pisco at your local liquor store.
We bought a bottle of Tabernero Pisco Puro Quebranta at our local liquor store for 30 euros. The Peruvian pisco, produced with quebranta grapes and aged in steel barrels, has a 40% ABV. Not only is it ideal for this Pisco Sour recipe, but it also tastes great on the rocks.
The quebranta grape is one of eight grape varietals used to produce pisco. Originally transported across the ocean by Spanish colonialists, the non-aromatic grape is now the most typical grape used to produce pisco.
How to Craft a Pisco Sour Cocktail
Once you gather the necessary ingredients and tools, the first step is to measure the pisco, fresh lime juice and simple syrup. We use a Japanese jigger in this and other cocktail recipes to avoid spillage and ensure accurate measurements.
Buy a Japanese jigger from Amazon if you need a jigger or want an inexpensive upgrade.
Immediately pour each liquid into a cocktail shaker. Add the egg white to the same shaker.
Vigorously shake the ingredients without ice for 20 seconds. This process is called a ‘dry shake’ and allows the egg white to emulsify.
Skip the dry shake if you follow a vegan diet or are squeamish about ingesting raw egg white. However, be aware that your Pisco Sour won’t have a frothy top layer if you omit the egg white. Another option is to replace the egg white with aquafaba (i.e. the liquid in every chickpea can).
Add ice and vigorously shake the cocktail for an additional 20 seconds or until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed and chilled.
We use a Boston shaker for shaking this and other cocktails since it doesn’t leak and is easy to clean.
Strain into a glass. We like to use a coupe glass for this recipe but you can use any glass of your choice.
Use an eye dropper to garnish the cocktail with three drops of Angostura bitters.
These three dots are important. They don’t just look good. They also enhance the Pisco Sour’s flavor and aroma.
Use a toothpick to artfully swirl the bitters in a design of your choice.
True confession: We watched a YouTube video to learn how to make the swirls. Don’t be intimidated – it’s super easy to do.
Although the classic Pisco Sour recipe is an international sensation, we understand that you may want to make the recipe your own. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Discover 10 essential bar tools for the home mixologist.
Frequently Asked Questions
A Pisco Sour is the national drink of both Chile and Peru. While the frothy Peruvian Pisco Sour is crafted with pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, egg white and Angostura bitters, the froth-free Chilean version includes pisco, limón de Pica juice and powdered sugar
The Pisco Sour was invented at Morris’ Bar in Lima, Peru.
Our Pisco Sour is crafted with pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, egg white (optional), Angostura bitters (garnish) and ice cubes (for shaking).
The Pisco Sour is shaken, not stirred.
Did you craft this cocktail? If so, please rate the recipe below.
Pisco Sour Recipe
- 2 ounces pisco
- 1 ounce lime juice (freshly squeezed)
- 1/2 ounce simple syrup
- 1 egg white (optional)
- 3 drops angostura bitters
- ice cubes
- Combine pisco, lime juice, simple syrup and egg white in a shaker.
- Shake vigorously until the egg white emulsifies – approximately 20 seconds. (Skip this step if you omit the egg white.)
- Add several ice cubes and until the liquids are mixed and chilled – approximately 20 seconds.
- Strain into a coupe glass.
- Use an eye dropper to place three angostura drops on top of the cocktail.
- Artfully swirl the three angostura drops with a toothpick.
- You can use another glass instead of a coupe glass. Options include a small martini glass or a Nick and Nora glass. You can even use a lowball glass.
- The egg white can be omitted if you're a vegan or uncomfortable with ingesting raw eggs.
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About The Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers their unique taste of the world.
Original Publication Date: August 30, 2023