Mix it up: Pisco sour is a classic cocktail to celebrate, wherever it’s from

Philip Salter
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Most of us manage to get through a night on the tiles without having a fight over who owns the drinks. But what is true of individuals isn’t necessarily true of nations.

Disputes rage the world over about who first invented a particular beverage, where and how it should be made, and what it should be called. One particularly acrimonious argument is between Chileans and Peruvians, who disagree over who invented the pisco sour.

Chileans claim the Englishman Elliot Stubb created the Pisco Sour in Iquique in 1872, while Peruvians claim it was invented in Lima by the American bartender Victor Vaughen Morris in the early 1920s (at the modestly named Morris’ Bar). Evidence suggests Peru has a better claim to the cocktail – particularly as Iquique was actually part of Peru until the Battle of Iquique in 1879 – but given that it wasn’t invented by a Chilean or Peruvian this is a national dispute fit for drunkards.

If you haven’t tried pisco, the nearest flavour is arguably grappa. And if you haven’t tried grappa then you really should. Like grappa, pisco is a clear, potent brandy that can be sipped after dinner. In the pisco sour, the sugar, lemon and egg white take the edge off its harsh notes to make a classic cocktail that stands the test of time.

Last year, Peruvian cuisine was in vogue. I avoided it, not least because having been there my abiding memory of the food was eating a guinea pig. Apart from its hair and skin, it was fully formed and looked remarkably like my former pets (but upside down). It tasted worse than I expected, but thankfully its body held such little meat that my suffering – much like the poor rodent – didn’t last long.

I finally got around to trying Peruvian cuisine at the recently opened Andina restaurant in Shoreditch. The ceviche (raw fish marinated in citrus juice) is particularly good and the cocktail list is equally appealing. Miguel Arbe – bar manager and Young British Foodie finalist – has plenty of pisco-based cocktails to tempt the adventurous. However, I was feeling patriotic and stuck with the pisco sour.

It’s National Pisco Sour Day on Saturday, 1 February – an annual Peruvian public holiday to honour the cocktail. The government’s decision in 2003 to institute the celebration of the cocktail on the first Saturday of February may be checkmate in the battle for the cocktail, but it matters little. Whether it’s Chilean, Peruvian or Timbuktuian – it is a classic that should be celebrated.

■ 60ml pisco
■ 30ml lemon juice
■ 4½ tsp sugar syrup
■ 1 egg white
■ Dash Angostura bitters

• Shake the pisco, lemon juice, sugar and egg white hard with ice
• Strain into a glass over fresh ice
• Garnish with the Angostura bitters