Wednesday, August 15, 2018

pisco punch

2 oz Pisco (Macchu Pisco)
1 oz Pineapple Syrup
1 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Lillet Rouge or other Red Wine (Byrrh)
1 dash Aromatic Bitters (Jerry Thomas Decanter)

Shake with ice, strain into a cocktail goblet, and garnish with an orange (lemon) twist.

After writing about Trader Vic's Pisco Punch, I began delving into Duggan McDonnell's research on this libation in his Drinking the Devil's Acre. Duggan traced the history back to Duncan Nicol who purchased the Bank Exchange Saloon in San Francisco that first opened its doors in 1853. The bar's Pisco Punch was legendary in that city, and it was often written, "A visitor to San Francisco must absolutely do three things: ride a cable car, watch the sun set through the Golden Gate, and drink a Pisco Punch!" This spirit-forward punch like the Zombie was limited to two per guest, and the recipe was held secret even to Nicol's death during Prohibition. Duggan mentioned that the recipe was not first crafted by Nicol as commonly attributed, for he bought it along with the bar from the Bank Exchange Saloon's original owner. There had always been mention of white powders that made the Pisco Punch special. Some thought it was the gum arabic that was frequently used in syrups, and others thought it was cocaine (although that did not commonly exist as a purified drug until much later). While the powder was not available back then, the coca leaf was, and its euphoric side effects had been well documented throughout the 19th century. Duggan latched on to a quote from Rudyard Kipling who described how the punch was "compounded of the shavings of cherub's wings, the glory of a tropical dawn, the red clouds of sunset and the fragments of lost epics by dead masters." Duggan matched the "red clouds" aspect to an unopened but oxidized bottle of Nicol's punch that displayed a reddish brown. He surmised that the coca leaf-infused wine crafted by Angelo Mariani created in 1863 could be the answer. Vin Mariani contained around 7 mg cocaine per ounce, and soon other imitators popped up in France and California; this trend continued until coca wines (and coca soft drinks like Coca Cola) were outlawed. Duggan surmised that Lillet Rouge might have a similar flavor profile as the original Vin Mariani.
Since I have never carried Lillet Rouge at home, and I gave up on Dubonnet years ago after their formulation was substandard to other quinquinas on the market (note: they just relaunched American Dubonnet with a new formulation that I got to taste at Tiki by the Sea back in June so I may reconsider it in the future), I needed another option. Therefore, I chose Byrrh Grand Quinquina as the aromatized red wine component to hopefully generate the red clouds of sunset albeit with less chemical kick than a century plus before. Once mixed, this Pisco Punch greeted the senses with a lemon and red grape aroma. Next, a smooth grape and lime sip preceded pisco, pineapple, and herbal flavors that led into spice on the finish. Definitely the inclusion of an aromatized wine as well as bitters added a pleasing depth to the otherwise refreshing mix.

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