Pisco Sour is all about tradition. Since its invention the 1920s, this Peruvian cocktail par excellence has been recognized worldwide for being an exquisite appetizer. The blend of Pisco (a southern country bourbon-like liquor) with fresh lemon juice, cane syrup, egg white and Angostura bitter, has flirted with the world’s most illustrious palates: Nobel Prize-winning laureates, kings and queens as well as Hollywood stars. You can still find the same bars that first used the recipe of Victor Vaughen Morris, the American who invented Pisco Sour. Although Pisco Sour is served everywhere in Lima, nowhere does it better than these five bars.
It doesn’t get more traditional than Old Tavern Queirolo. Known to Peruvians as “El Queirolo,” this tavern dates to the 1880s. It started as a store where people could buy Pisco that was distilled in the back. Now, their Pisco is a famous Peruvian brand with the same name as the restaurant. Drinking a Pisco Sour and eating lomo saltado at Queirolo is a rite of passage for every visitor and Peruvian who visits the Pueblo Libre district in Lima.
Pisco Sour has been served at the Country Club Lima Hotel’s English bar saloon since 1927. Here they use a strain of Pisco called Quebranta, which has less aroma than the other varieties. Every year on February 4, Peruvians celebrate National Pisco Sour Day. In the past, Country Club Lima Hotel has prepared almost 3,000 pisco sours on that day; their bartenders are scholars of this Peruvian cocktail.
Located in front of San Martín Square, there is one reason why Peruvians call Gran Hotel Bolivar the “Pisco Cathedral”: they offer the biggest Pisco Sour in the city, with five ounces of Pisco, four ounces of lemon juice mixed with sugar syrup. That’s almost twice the size of servings used in other bars. It got its “cathedral” nickname after the kind of glasses they use to serve the Pisco Sours. Its luxurious decoration from the 1920s – the hotel is officially recognized as a national monument – attracted important figures of the time, many of whom left incredible anecdotes, like the one time Orson Welles allegedly drank 42 Pisco Sours in one sitting. Try drinking one and see what happens.
It is believed that the Pisco Sour popularity began to grow at the Hotel Maury upon Vaughen Morris’s death. His apprentice, Mario Bruiget, became hotel Maury’s bartender and continued to perfect his teacher’s recipe, improving it by adding two ingredients that shaped the cocktail’s texture: egg white and Angostura bitter. Hotel Maury is located in downtown Lima and has an old-fashioned wooden bar managed by a bartender who has been making Pisco Sours for the last 40 years. A historical place for those looking for the origins of Pisco Sour.
Not always are the bars that serve the best Pisco Sour located in Lima. If you are in Cusco, visit the Museo del Pisco. Bartenders use Pisco infusions of different flavors like coffee, passion fruit, chocolate and pineapple, to vary the flavor of the traditional Pisco Sour. If you feel like you want to learn how to prepare these cocktails, the bartenders at the Museo del Pisco can teach you how on the spot.