Something for the Weekend: The perfect pisco sour
On Saturday, 10 area bars and restaurants are shaking up creative takes on the pisco sour, Peru's national drink, and offering them at special prices. There are two reasons to celebrate: The first Saturday in February is Pisco Sour Day in Peru, and this weekend is the 100th anniversary of American archeologist Hiram Bingham's first visit of the ruins of Machu Picchu, which he dubbed "The Lost City of the Incas."
A dozen mixologists debuted their new cocktails for judges and diplomats at the Embassy of Peru last night in a contest sponsored by the embassy and the Bethesda-based Macchu Pisco liqueur, and I went to help sample them.
It's hard to top the smooth, easy-sipping pisco sour -- a clear grape brandy shaken with egg whites, lemons, simple syrup and bitters -- but last night's contestants came up with some innovative variations. The grand prize went to Jason Strich of Rasika, whose Chi-Cha Sour had a base of chi-cha, a traditional Andean beverage made with fermented corn, and was topped with roasted quinoa seeds. Their crunchy taste and smoky flavor combined well with the sweet, citrusy cocktail. (Strich is currently producing more chi-cha, which several days to ferment, so his drink won't be available at Rasika's bar until next week.)
I was also impressed by the Tusán from Clinton Terry of PX and Restaurant Eve, which got its smooth, fruity body from roasted meyer lemons and sweet agave nectar. The kicker, though, was the Peruvian chili pepper reduction topping the drink. Its warm, lingering heat numbs the lips but you can still taste the fresh egg and sugar. Terry took home the prize for the most creative cocktail.
The pisco concoctions ran the gamut of influences and ingredients: the Majestic's thick, spicy Punjabi Sour used carrot juice and pungent garam masala; Agwa, a liqueur made from coca leaves, added an extra sweetness to the Picchu Chasqui from Dirty Martini; and the Gaucho Pisco, available at all locations of Chef Geoff's, had earthy, grassy notes from South American yerba mate tea and aloe vera juice.
The special prices are only for Saturday, Pisco Sour Day, but the drinks will be on menus throughout February. Try them out at the other participating bars, including Mio, Ceiba, Blue Duck Tavern, Policy and Founding Farmers.
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