Pisco is a brandy that is yellowish-to-amber in color; it can also be colorless. The Peruvians make it be distilling fermented grape juice into a high-proof spirit.
Every year on the fourth Sunday of July, Peru celebrates Día del Pisco (National Pisco Day). In fact, Pisco, Peru’s national spirit, is so loved that the drink is actually honored twice a year; there is also the Día del Pisco Sour (Pisco Sour Day) which is celebrated on the first Saturday in February.
The History of the Peruvian Pisco
First developed in the 16th century, Spanish settlers made pisco as an alternative to orujo, a clear spirit with an alcohol content of over 50%. The wine back then was also scarce and reserved mostly for the Holy Church. To meet the growing demands for wine, the Spanish Conquistadores in Peru began to plant vineyards in Ica, a city on the southern part of Peru.
The grapes grown in the vineyard adapted beautifully to Peru’s climate and soil. The best of the grapes when to wine production while the leftover grapes were left to the local farmers who used them to produce a liquor they called aguardiente or “fire water.”
Demand for the aguardiente grew. There was a town in Santa María Magdalena that had a port named Pisco. The Port of Pisco played a key role as a route for the distribution for the aguardiente throughout Peru. Eventually, Santa María Magdalena simply became known as Pisco and ultimately, the aguardiente adopted the same name.
By the 18th century, Pisco had gained worldwide notoriety. The demand for Pisco rose both nationally and internationally. Over the decades, pisco would suffer a decline in production because of the wars. However, it would experience a resurgence in the 1900s.
In the early 1920s, an American bartender, Victor Vaughn Morris, invented the Pisco Sour. The Pisco Sour’s base is Peruvian pisco which is mixed with lime juice, simple syrup, ice, egg white, and Angostura bitters. The Pisco Sour ultimately becomes the national drink of Peru.
Pisco Sour Ingredients
The Declaration and Celebration of National Pisco Day
The National Institute of Culture passed Resolución Ministerial Nº 055-99-ITINCI-DM on May 6, 1999, declaring that the fourth Sunday of every July would be Pisco Day. The day would be celebrated throughout Peru, particularly in the pisco-producing regions such as Ica, Lima, Tacna, Moquegua, and Arequipa.
There are four distinct variants of pisco; puro, Aromáticas, Mosto Verde, and Acholado. And each year on National Pisco Day, Peruvians from all over celebrate their national spirit with tasting sessions, fairs, dance performances, market stalls, live music, and pisco promotions. One of the best ways Peru celebrates is by converting the public water fountains into pisco fountains, allowing pisco to flow freely to the delight of the locals and tourists.