The Five Shades of Pisco

It seems innocent enough, clear and often sweetly aromatic like wine.  But at 80 proof or so, don’t be fooled by this lush Latin import: there’s a lot more to pisco than punches and sours.

Pisco is made from only certain varieties of grapes, which are fermented and distilled into a potent aguardiente. It is a potent South American brandy with a storied history and a passionate following.  Until recently, most of the pisco available was only so-so.  But with Peru and Chile striving to produce better bottles, and new high-quality, handcrafted versions available (one even made here in the West), bartenders are riffing on the classics and creating drinks with pisco-inspired panache.  Drink it on its own, or shake up one of our originals:

Pisco Sunset



  • 2 slices cucumber, plus more slices for garnish
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate juice
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons pisco
  • 2 drops Angostura bitters


  1. Muddle cucumber, pomegranate juice, orange juice, agave nectar, lime juice, and a pinch of kosher salt in a cocktail shaker.
  2. Fill with ice and add pisco and bitters.  Shake and strain into 2 martini glasses.  Garnish each drink with a cucumber slice.

Pisco Sour



  • 1/4 cup (2 oz.) pisco
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon pasteurized egg whites


  1. In a blender, whirl 3 ice cubes, pisco, sugar, fresh lime juice, and egg whites.
  2. Whirl until smooth (you’ll no longer hear the ice cracking against the side of the blender) and serve straight up in a martini glass with a dash of aromatic bitters and a wedge of lime.

Pisco Negroni



  • 6 tablespoons pisco
  • 1/4 cup Campari
  • 1/4 cup sweet vermouth
  • 8 drops orange bitters
  • Orange twists for garnish


  1. Combine pisco, Campari, vermouth, and bitters.
  2. Divide between 2 highball glasses filled with ice.  Garnish with orange twists.

West-Fresh Pisco Sour



  • 10 large mint leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 6 tablespoons pisco
  • 2 tablespoons pasteurized egg whites


  1. Muddle mint leaves, lime juice, and agave nectar in a cocktail shaker.
  2. Add ice, pisco, and egg whites and shake very vigorously at least 20 seconds.
  3. Strain into 2 cups.  Garnish with mint sprigs.

Pisco 75



  • 6 tablespoons pisco
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons simple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons blackberry liqueur
  • 4 to 6 tbsp. chilled sparkling wine
  • Fresh blackberries for garnish


  1. Shake pisco, lemon juice, simple syrup, and ice in a cocktail shaker.  Strain into 2 flutes.
  2.  Drizzle 1 tbsp. blackberry liqueur down inside of each flute, then pour in each flute 2 to 3 tbsp. chilled sparkling wine over the back of a spoon.
  3. Garnish with blackberries.


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