Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pisco Portón

After I finished having the Threesome at the Isla Verde Cafe, I found my myself wanting to keep with the trend of trying out something new. I found myself looking at the higher shelves and a bottle caught my attention. It was labelled "Pisco Portón". I was definitely curious since I have never had a taste of Pisco. What is Pisco Portón? Well, read on.

According to the Pisco Portón website:
Pisco Portón is handcrafted using centuries-old distilling methods in combination with new technology to create a mosto verde pisco made from a blend of grapes that is of superior quality and true to Peruvian tradition. To preserve the full character of the grapes, Pisco Portón uses the mosto verde method of distilling from a partially fermented grape juice known as must. Our pisco is never adulterated with water or artificial flavors. What is in the glass is pure and natural.

This new ultra premium white spirit is made at Hacienda La Caravedo in Ica, Peru, which is home to a new state-of-the-art and environmentally friendly distillery, as well as the oldest distillery in the Americas (est. 1684).

The three grape varietals that give Pisco Portón its flavor are Quebranta, Albilla and Torontel.
I had the bartender give me some of the Pisco Portón neat. At first smell I found it to be somewhat natural. When I mean natural, I mean that it seemed to have a woodsy type scent. Upon first taste I found it to also have a somewhat woodsy taste. Its consistency was like a dry silver tequila. I asked the bartender what she thought of it and she had not tasted it before. Upon her tasting it, she said that it tasted "Leafy" to her. At the time I was not particularly sold on it. But in defense of the spirit, I had already ruined my palate by having the Threesome, The Nude-Tini and a number of beers earlier in the evening. I would have to give Pisco Portón a pass this time around and try it again with a clean palate.

On a side note, what I didn't realize about Pisco in general is that it was a popular spirit here in the United States and in San Francisco specifically as early as the 1830's straight into the Prohibition Era. Why is that?

According to the Pisco Portón website:
In the second half of the 19th century, pisco was king in San Francisco’s watering holes. Back then, it was easier to ship pisco up the coast from Peru than to transport whiskey overland from the East Coast. Newly rich gold prospectors, thirsty sailors, and eventually all of San Francisco developed a robust appetite for pisco that lasted until the supply was cut off by Prohibition in 1920.
Pisco is now making a comeback in bars and cocktail lounges throughout the United States. One such cocktail that was (and still is) quite popular was the Pisco Punch. Here is a little history lesson on how the Pisco Punch was created (Also from the Pisco Portón website):
Pisco Punch was the most famous cocktail in San Francisco, made at the Bank Exchange on Montgomery and Washington by famous bar owner, Duncan Nicol. At 25 cents, the drink was preposterously expensive yet incredibly popular.

A true gentleman barkeeper, Nicol had a house rule that two pisco punches were enough for any patron of his bar. If a customer wanted a third, he had to walk around the long block and come back in to qualify as a new customer. When John Mackay, perhaps the richest man in America at the time, asked for a third, Nicol said no. Mackay grabbed his hat and obediently walked around the block to have his third Pisco Punch adds another layer to the Pisco Punch lore:
He (Duncan Nicol) remained mum on the recipe even after the Exchange closed its doors in 1919 due to American Prohibition. The recipe was thought to have died with him when he conveniently did so in 1926. However, thanks to his backstabbing bar manager, John Lannes, the formula was unearthed once again, and in 1973, California Historical Society published the components of the punch for all the world to steal and enjoy the heaven-bestowed drink.
Here is the recipe for a Pisco Punch using Pisco Portón:
1/2 pint (8 oz.) of simple syrup
1 pint (16 oz.) of distilled water
3/4 pint (10 oz.) of lemon juice
1 750 ml bottle (24 oz.) of Pisco Portón
1 fresh pineapple

Cut a fresh pineapple in squares about 1/2 by 1 1/2 inches. Put these squares of fresh pineapple in a bowl of simple syrup to soak overnight. In the morning, mix the rest of the ingredients in a big bowl. Use 3 or 4 oz. of punch per glass adding a square of the soaked pineapple to each. Lemon juice or simple syrup may be added to taste. Serve very cold. Simple Syrup Recipe: Using two parts sugar and one part water, bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Dissolve the sugar into the boiling water, stirring constantly. Once the sugar is dissolved completely, remove the pan from the heat. Do not allow the syrup to boil for too long or the syrup will be too thick. Allow to cool completely and thicken, then bottle. The cook time is approximately five minutes.
So there you have it. A little history lesson for us all when it comes to the spirit known as Pisco. I will definitely have to give Pisco and Pisco Portón specifically another chance. When I do, it'll be posted here as usual.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

For Further Reading:
Click here to access Tim Leffel's article On the Pisco Trail
From pisco sours to purple corn juice, Peru offers a diverse drink culture from the Jul/Aug 2007 issue of Imbibe Magazine

Click here to access for a wide array of information, recipe and history concerning Pisco