The pisco sour is one of the great classic cocktails! The magic meld of pisco and lime in this Peruvian drink gives it a flavor that’s like none other.
There’s truly no drink like it. Meet the classic pisco sour! This sour cocktail from Peru is mega popular for a reason. It’s just that good. Here at A Couple Cooks, we’ve made all the sours: our famous Whiskey Sour and Amaretto Sour, the two-toned New York Sour, and many more. But there’s really nothing like a pisco sour. The way the pisco melds with the lime makes it bright, mellow, and distinctly magical. Here’s how to make this famous classic cocktail that’s earned it’s place in history.
What’s a pisco sour?
The pisco sour is a sour cocktail made with pisco liquor, a clear brandy made in Peru and Chile. Sours are defined as three parts: liquor, citrus, and sweetener. Often in the 1920’s, sours were with an egg white foam, which adds a frothy texture and creamy body to the drink. The exact date the pisco sour was invented isn’t clear: some claim the first recipe was printed in a cocktail book in 1903 (source).
But the most widely accepted theory is that the pisco sour was invented by American bartender Victor Morris in the 1920’s, while he was living in Peru. It was inspired by the Whiskey Sour (invented in the 1880’s), but swaps in pisco for whiskey and lime for lemon. This drink is on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails, meaning it has an “official” definition. The ingredients in a pisco sour are:
- Lime juice
- Simple syrup
- Egg white
- Angostura bitters, for the garnish
It’s worth buying a bottle of pisco…period.
Confession from your resident homemade cocktail experts. We procrastinated making the pisco sour for a long time. Why? It requires a special purchase: a bottle of pisco liquor. It’s not used in many of the other cocktails we make on the regular (like these). So we weren’t sure if it was worth it to spring for a bottle.
After trying this drink, here’s the verdict: for the adventurous home mixologist, pisco is absolutely worth it! If you love mixing cocktails at home, pisco has a unique flavor that can’t be replaced by anything else. The pisco sour is showy and perfect for entertaining: it tastes just like you ordered it at a fancy bar.
Where to find it? Pisco is a clear brandy made in Peru and Chile. Because of the popularity of this drink, it’s easy to find at your local liquor store.
How to make a pisco sour (basic steps)
The pisco sour is quick and easy to make: the only time involved is juicing the citrus and separating out the egg white! Here are the basic steps (or jump to the recipe):
- Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake for 15 seconds without ice.
- Add ice to the cocktail shaker and shake again for 30 seconds.
- Strain into a glass and garnish. Voila!
This technique is actually called a dry shake: it’s what makes that signature foamy top. Here’s how it works…
A “dry shake” makes the best egg white foam
Bartenders have added egg whites to cocktails since the 1860’s to add a frothy texture to the top and a creamy rich flavor to each sip. How to get the perfect foam? The best frothy egg white form is achieved by doing a Dry Shake. You’ll use in lots of classic cocktail recipes like the Gin Fizz. Here’s how it works:
- The first shake without ice lets the protein in the egg begin to form foam, instead of being diluted by the ice.
- The second shake with ice cools the drink and strengthens the foam. Strain it into the glass and you’ll get a thick, white frothy layer.
How to make bitters designs on a pisco sour
Once you’ve got that egg white foam, the last step is to shake some cocktail bitters on top! Bitters are small bottles of liquor infused with herbs and fruits that taste…well, bitter! They’re intended to be added into cocktails in 1 or 2 dashes to add complexity to the flavor. In the Pisco sour we used Angostura bitters, which are a popular and easy to find bottle.
It’s common with the Pisco sour that you’ll see bartenders make fancy designs using the bitters on the top of the foam. Here’s how to make the pattern you see here:
- Gently shake 3 small dots on the top of the egg white foam.
- Use a toothpick or stir stick to gently draw a line to connect them.
Cousin drinks: all the sours!
There is an entire cocktail family called sour cocktails. Within that are those that actually have the word “Sour” in the title. The Whiskey Sour, Amaretto Sour, Boston Sour, Vodka Sour, Tequila Sour and Gin Sour all have similar elements with the pisco sour, except for the types of liquor:
- Lemon for the sour element
- Simple syrup for the sweetener
- Egg white foam topping, a creamy rich flavor and frothy surface texture
- Bitters, which add complexity to the flavor
When to serve a pisco sour
The pisco sour is a sophisticated and perfectly balanced drink. It’s great for showing off to guests! Serve it as a:
- Happy hour drink
- Dinner party drink
- Late night drinks drink
- Guys or girls night drink
- Cocktail hour drink
The Pisco sour is one of the great classic cocktails! The magic meld of pisco and lime in this Peruvian drink gives it a flavor that’s like none other.
- 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) pisco
- 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) lime juice
- 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) simple syrup
- 1 egg white
- For the garnish: 3 dashes bitters
- Add the pisco, lime juice, simple syrup and egg white to a cocktail shaker without ice. Shake for 15 seconds.
- Add the ice to the cocktail shaker. Shake again for 30 seconds.
- Strain the drink into a cocktail glass; the foam will collect at the top. Garnish with bitters on the foam.
- Category: Drink
- Method: Shaken
- Cuisine: Cocktails
Keywords: Pisco sour, How to make a Pisco sour
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.