CHILE AND PERU ARE BATTLING OVER THE BEST PISCO SOUR

A couple of days ago, at a deli in Brooklyn, I saw a very unusual product: Amargo de Angostura bitters. This is common in my home country, Chile, but I hadn’t seen before in the states. I asked the vendor what people bought it for, but he didn’t know the answer. To me, that bottle immediately made me thirsty for Pisco Sour, the most popular cocktail in Chile. Pisco Sour is a sweet and acid, strong yet fresh delicious cocktail prepared with Pisco, a spirit made with grapes. It is mostly known in the US as a Peruvian cocktail, but it’s very popular in Chile as well.

For decades, the two countries have battled over the identity of the spirit. Both protected this product under an appellation of origin, such as France has done with Champagne. This is an intellectual property right that allows the use of a particular term only for products that are produced in determined locations and under specific standards, according to Eileen Frodden, legal advisor of the Chilean Intellectual Property Office. She adds that the industry on both sides has pressured Governments to get involved too, and the conflict has even scaled to the World Intellectual Property Organization. Chile accepts the use of the term Pisco as a homonymy, which means allowing the international use of the term by both countries if there is reciprocity, but Perú rejects this posture. Also, Chile allows personal importation of Peruvian Pisco, while Perú doesn’t permit the entrance of a single bottle of Chilean Pisco in their territory.

The battle became heated during 2017’s Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, a major international spirits competition, held in Chile this year. Chilean officials banned the use of the term from Peruvian competitors, claiming Chile’s Appellation of Origin. Peruvian producers could only use the term “grape spirit”. The Peruvian government forbade its producers from participating in the competition, threatening them with losing the faculty to use the term Pisco permanently, explains Frodden.

To understand this battle better, let’s take a look at some history and facts around this spirit. Grapes did not exist in pre-Columbian America. They arrived in the first Spanish trips to South America, for making wine to celebrate the mass with aborigines in the evangelization of Catholicism. But the wine fermented in short time, so then it was distilled it to make it last longer, and also for other uses such as fuel and as an antiseptic. At that time, it began to be marketed in a port named Pisco in the Viceroyalty of Peru, which covered much of today´s South America, excluding Brazil, in barrels that were also named Pisco. Those are probably the reasons why that term was coined for this liquor, according to Pablo Hinojoza, Brand Manager of CAPEL: the largest Pisco producer in the world. The oldest record found using the term Pisco for this liquor was found in Chile and dates from 1733, according to Pablo Lacoste, an Argentinian historian who wrote the book El Pisco Nació en Chile” (“Pisco was Born in Chile”).

At a production level, Chilean and Peruvian Pisco are very different, says Hinojoza. First, because of the grape varieties they use. Peruvian Pisco is produced mostly with Quebranta grapes, which are very fruity, while Chilean Pisco uses a more neutral variety named Pedro Jiménez. Also, Peruvian Pisco fermentation uses stalk and husk, while the Chilean process uses no stalk and only a minimum of husk. Additionally, there are major differences at the distillation stage. Alcohol is distilled in three phases. The first and third, whose products are named the “head” and “tale” of Pisco, are a fruity Pisco with a low degree of alcohol and more water. The “heart” of the Pisco, which is about 60% of the distillation product, is the finest and most neutral part, with an alcoholic concentration of 80%. Peruvian Pisco uses all: head, heart and tale. Chilean Pisco uses only the heart, reducing the alcohol concentration with spring demineralized water. All these differences influence the fruity fragrance of Peruvian Pisco and the more neutral flavor of Chilean Pisco.

Culturally, Pisco in Peru is used mainly by the elites, for shots after dinner and for Pisco Sour as cocktails. In Chile, Pisco is the most popular spirit. People from all social backgrounds and ages throughout the country drink it on regular basis. In Perú, the average consumption of Pisco per person is 0, 2 liters per year, while in Chile the same average is 1, 9 liters. Also, Chile is the main importer of Peruvian Pisco, with an average of 35% of the total exportation.

To me, this spirit is so tasty and delicious it should not be a cause for battle, but a homonymy of mutual proudness among Chile and Perú. Now let´s prepare a Pisco Sour from the scratch. It is very easy and fun to make. Cheers!

Pisco Sour for four

· 12 onces of Pisco

· 4 onces of lime juice

· 4 ounces of cocktail’s syrup*

· 1 egg

· Amargo de Angostura

· Ice

*If you don’t have cocktail syrup you can made your own by adding to a pan one ounce of sugar and one ounce of water in a cooking pot over low fire for approximately 5 minutes, or until both ingredients have melted and some water have evaporated, leaving the mix with a slight density.

Squeeze the limes and keep the juice in a glass.

Separate the egg yolk and white; keep the white in a glass.

In a blender add the Pisco, the lime juice, the egg white and the syrup. Blend for about 15 seconds or until you can see foam appeared in the mix. Add the ice and blend for another 10 seconds.

Serve in a glass and add three Amargo de Angostura drops at the top of each cocktail. Drink immediately!