Friday Tastings: Pisco Portón

Unless you mix drinks for a living, or hail from Peru, we’re guessing you’re not acquainted with pisco, the strange, un-aged Peruvian brandy that is the country’s national beverage (a continuing sore point for Chileans, who also produce the stuff). Well, you’re not likely to find a better introduction to it than Pisco Portón, an impressive new brandy from a historic locale (Hacienda La Caravedo, where pisco has been made since 1684), and a distiller who has devoted much of his life to promoting and judging pisco.  As a category, pisco is tightly regulated, with rules about acceptable grapes (eight varieties you haven’t heard of) and three official styles, all forbidding aging, flavoring, or dilution with water. Portón is a mosto verde, meaning the grapes’ juices undergo partial fermentation, leaving some sugars in the distiller’s beer. At 86 proof, it’s wildly expressive—with funktastic notes of fennel seed and rye grain (smelling not unlike a white dog whiskey), and a fruity, spicy, tongue-coating body. The first pisco in memory a man might sip neat, in place of a grappa (with that $50 price tag, it ought to be). Might, that is, if there weren’t such a thing as a pisco sour, that sublime warm-weather cocktail. So pick up a bottle of Portón; memorize the pisco sour recipe below; and welcome to the weekend.

Pisco Sour (Courtesy of Dale DeGroff’s The Craft of the Cocktail)
1 ½ ounces pisco
¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
1 ounce simple syrup
1 small egg white
Several drops of Angostura bitters

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a small cocktail glass. Garnish with several drops of Angostura bitters on top of the foam.

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