Pisco – An Increasingly International Drink

From El Popular
Translated by Emilia Liz

Pisco is a banner product from Peru that very few Canadians know about, as it is very difficult to find in Canada. However, according to several studies and internationally renowned sommeliers, in two years this distilled beverage made from grapes will be the new boom in the sector, becoming an internationally fashionable distilled product. Its success lies in the current market trend, which leans on natural and classical products from the field. Qualities that fit perfectly with pisco.

The sector that produces this brandy in Peru is dominated by medium-scale industry and is largely manufactured in artisanal form in the coastal region of Lima, Ica, Arequipa, Moquegua and Tacna and the valleys of Locumba, Sama and Caplina. Due to the beverage’s link to the geography and toponymy of Peru, along with its long established tradition in the country’s roots, it is often manufactured not for commercial purposes but out of generational family pride, using ancient manufacturing processes to provide a quality product.

Pisco exports in the first six months of this year rose by 105% in comparison to the results of 2010 and generated $1.7 million, according to data from the country’s Exporters Association. The United States continues to be the country that imports the most pisco, spending $1.1 million in the first six months of 2011, a 201% increase from the previous year. Other countries that import the beverage include Chile, Spain, France, Japan, Germany, Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil and Colombia among others.

In the city of San Francisco, California (US), pisco has gained many fans and become a regular spirit after many Americans tried pisco for the first time at the end of the 19th century thanks to the punch called pisco punch, and subsequently pisco sour, that the Scot Duncan Nicol created in the basement of his San Francisco bar. The beverage is so well-established in the American city that they even have a Pisco Punch Day there just like in Lima and Ica.

There are 325 brands of Peruvian pisco, a brandy that ‘is not like Chilean pisco, Italian grappa, or Spain’s orujo. We only distil it once, and in practice, the final product is 100% grape, for which you need eight kilograms of grapes in order to produce a litre of pisco. And in the case of green must (unfermented grape juice), you need between 12 and 15 kilograms,’ explains Ricardo Carpio, owner of PiscoBar, which is one of the most famous Peruvian bars and which pays tribune to pisco.

Single distillation

‘In Spain you have orujo, which is made from spare wine, which are the already pressed skins and which have no sweetness, as a result of which you add water and sugar. In contrast, in Peru we pick the grapes and take them to a plant to crush them, and it is as if we were making a wine with grape juice. But instead of leaving part of the alcohol, with pisco, everything changes and distils. Grappa, for example, uses one or two kilograms of grape per litre,’ Ricardo explains.

In fact, green must is one of the piscos that Canadians like best because of its greater smoothness, as it is 40 degrees rather than 42 like most piscos. It is obtained through a shortened fermentation process, which usually lasts between seven and 20 days in order to make the sugar turn to alcohol and thereby distil it. In the case of green must, it is not completely fermented, and sugar residues remain in the wine’s juice so that the final distillate contains sugar particles and turns out a bit smoother.

Before this potential increase in global demand for pisco, the company Pisco Bar Corner has started marketing the brandy in the province of Ontario. At the events the company organized to let Canadians sample pisco, they discovered that besides green must, Italia and Torontel, both made with aromatic pesquera (literally, ‘fishing’) grapes, were also very popular.

Quebranta pisco ‘is the most common kind made and grown in Peru. It is a pisco with a strong blow, not an aromatic blow, and so it is not going to be popular with clients who have just begun to consume it or who want to learn,’ notes Ricardo, an expert at creating new cocktails made with brandy as well as a member of Pisco Bar Corner.

A very versatile drink

Serving it cold or at ambient temperature depends on the client and how it is going to be consumed. ‘In Peru, pisco is drunk in cocktails and in pure form. But not as if it were a tequila but rather served in a glass like a cognac, sampling it, tasting it, giving it aroma,’ Ricardo explains, emphasizing that this drink ‘is not only an alcohol but also citric, sweet and herb tastes and aromas.’

This characteristic allows it to be combined with all types of food and even flambéed. As well, it goes perfectly with chocolate or with Peru’s typical turrones, Ricardo comments.

Pisco has all the numbers to become an international drink, given its great versatility, especially when it comes to making cocktails. One of Ricardo’s works is the so-called Native, a combination designed exclusively for the Canadian public which contains pisco, brewed coffee, Canada Dry, Green Tea Ginger Ale, lemon juice and ice.

For the pisco expert barman, it is very important to explore every country and discover which products can be consumed with brandy. This way, not only will you get the best flavour but also adapt the Peruvian beverage to Canadian tastes, and then those cocktails will start showing up in bars in the country.

Pisco in Ontario

Ricardo is part of the company Pisco Bar Corner, which seeks to introduce pisco to the province of Ontario. However, to introduce this brandy in places, the company first wants to see how Canadians accept it, as alcohol ‘is very difficult to introduce to this market compared to those of other countries, given that the LCBO controls everything,’ Ricardo points out. For this reason, to get one of the premium piscos sold by the company, it is necessary to go to the website and order it.

Pisco Bar Corner not only brings pisco to Ontario but other high-quality Peruvian products for a gourmet public so that they can taste new exotic delicacies that are ‘an experience of new tastes and scents. A feast for the senses,’ and at the same time, ‘complementary products, as someone who likes a good pisco will also like a good coffee or good chocolate,’ says Jack Angeles, who is responsible for international business and management innovation at Pisco Bar Corner.

In the catalogue of Peruvian products, we find chocolates, tea, coffee, and eight varieties of pisco of the brands Cholo Matias, Torre de la Gala, Tres Generaciones, and Campo de Encanto. The last is one of the most famous internationally, especially in San Francisco.

‘A taster or sommelier not only seeks to try wines, whiskey or vodka but also products like chocolate and coffee because they have a complex that includes sight, flavour, taste and aftertaste,’ Ricardo says, describing why they have chosen to include on their list other products besides Premium pisco, which costs just under $50 a bottle. A price that reflects its degree of exclusivity.

The company, which is associated with the Latin American company in Peru MIREMS, also seeks to demonstrate that part of the Free Trade Agreement between the two countries is feasible for small businesses, especially those linked to social issues, Jack emphasizes, explaining that Ontario was chosen to start the business because for Peru, ‘Toronto is the gateway to Canada,’ as all flights from Lima land in Toronto.

Translation from original Spanish at http://retrolab.ca/elpopular/2011/09/el-pisco-una-bebida-cada-vez-mas-internacional/

For more information, see http://www.piscobarcorner.com/ or call 416-901-0988.

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