Ma Serena
  • Shami Sosa
  • Ma Serena

Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda reportedly described pisco—the national drink of both Chile and Peru—as “Un millón de años de sol, en una sola gota,” which translates to “A million years of sun in a single drop.” “Sun” could also be translated as “sunshine,” but it’s still a stretch to say Neruda called pisco “sunshine in a bottle,” which is also attributed to him (though maybe he said that on another occasion; reliable sources have proved difficult to find).

Last week I attended a pisco tasting put on by Pisco Control, which is launching its new Control C pisco in the U.S. with a tour called “A Million Rays of Sunshine” (definitely a bastardization of the original quote, though it does sound nice). In attendance was Claudia Olmedo, who literally wrote the book on Chilean pisco: 40 Grados, which covers pisco history, production, styles, and tasting, as well as including a guide to about 30 Chilean piscos, cocktail recipes, and pisco pairings (with both chocolate and cigars).

  • Andrew Kist
  • 1931

Olmedo talked about what pisco is: a spirit made from grapes, which in Chile is produced only in the Atacama and Coquimbo regions. There are five varieties of grapes that can be used (torontel, Pedro Ximenez, and three varieties of muscat), and they’re essentially made into wine before being distilled into pisco, a fairly sweet spirit (in the way that rum is sweet; not syrupy like most liqueurs). There are ongoing heated debates over whether pisco was originally Peruvian or Chilean, which Olmedo didn’t get into and I won’t either (I do have plenty more to say about pisco, but that’ll have to wait for another post).

What stood out were two excellent cocktails, one by Sterling Field and the other from Paul Sauter. The recipes are below; the first is mildly smoky and complex, the second sweet and fruity, with a tanginess that increases as the cranberry ice cube melts. Both call for Control C pisco, but any clear (unaged) pisco would work; try to find Chilean rather than Peruvian pisco since it’ll be closer to the original (Chilean pisco has been less common than Peruvian in the U.S., but is becoming easier to find).

1931 by Sterling Field
1.5 oz Pisco Control C
.5 oz mezcal
.75 oz orgeat
.75 oz lime juice (fresh)
2 dashes Mole Bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters

Shake, double strain, serve up in a coupe glass.

Ma Serena by Paul Sauter
2 oz Pisco Control C
1.5 oz passion fruit puree
1 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz honey
4 drops liquefied habanero
Egg white
Cranberry ice cubes

Dry shake egg white. Add all ingredients. Shake and strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice cubes. Garnish with hibiscus leaves.