Pisco Fever

The western coast of South America, a large share of which belongs to Peru, is one of the most eco- and biodiverse regions on the planet. A trek through this stunning country would cover a bunch of beaches, a sizable chunk of the Amazon basin, and the arid Sechura desert, which sprawls right up to the foothills of the snow-capped Andes mountains. You’d pack plenty of supplies and water for this arduous, multi-terrain journey—but one thing you wouldn’t need to bring along is pisco, its national drink that’s avidly boasted about and available in abundance.

The Inca Trail  is a hiking trail in Peru that terminates at Machu Picchu. via @viviancromwell

Most likely named for the Peruvian port city of Pisco (as with many spirits, this remains a source of debate), this brandy is made from a single grape variety or a blend and is rested in nonreactive vessels that impart no color, flavor, or odor with absolutely nothing added. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that “Peru” is just one letter swap away from “pure”—its style of pisco could not be any more so. 

You may be familiar with pisco’s subtle floral and fruity flavors and the traditional Punch and Sour to which it lends its name, but with this re-released box, we have a few other ideas on how to keep it flowing this August. Yes, we’ve come down with another case of Pisco Fever right on time for summer—and the only known cure is relaxation with three refreshing cocktails. Subscribe now through July 31st to get yours—this box will ship the week of August 5th.

One defining characteristic of a tiki drink is that it’s complicated to make. The Last Guinea Pig in Cuzco by Nathan Dalton is on the “more complicated” end of the spectrum, but we’ve simplified things for you by combining many of the components together all in one syrup—Nate’s tiki mix—which approximates the flavors of passion fruit syrup, falernum, cinnamon syrup, and allspice liqueur. The green tea is a little off the beaten path for a tiki drink, but it’s right at home in Peru. (Actually, in Peru, they use coca tea in cocktails—but since coca leaves are illegal in the US and green sencha tea tastes quite similar, it makes a good substitute.) In the end, Nathan says he wanted to create a refreshing drink that allowed the pisco to shine through. He hopes it brings a smile to someone’s face—and a desire to delve further into pisco and tiki drinks, as “they are both rabbit holes worth diving into.”  

Nathan is the former Food and Beverage Director for the Catahoula Hotel in New Orleans and its Peruvian cafe and bar, Piscobar (Eater.com’s Bar of the Year 2016 for New Orleans). Previously, he was the bar director for the Felipe’s Taqueria operation. He also opened Tiki Tolteca, the first tiki bar in New Orleans since the 1980s, which married the tiki world with Latin America and was awarded Wine Enthusiast’s People’s Choice for Best New Bar in America for the years 2012–2014. He’s currently in the process of developing his own B+B and bar concept, to be located on a farm.

For more from Nathan on his work, the scene in New Orleans, the history of pisco and why he loves it, and more, check out our 2017 interview with him, where you can get the details behind his cocktail (plus recommendations for food and music to pair with it!).

It takes a keen mind like Shaun Loughran’s to honor the pristine quality of pisco while elevating it with equally delicate ingredients. Much like its mythological namesake, the lovely Elysian Fields brings to mind an idyllic, pastoral setting bathed in sunlight. Fluttering atop this drink’s pisco base in a dance of earthy, sweet, and sour is soothing lavender honey and bright lemon juice. A lavender garnish and a touch of salinity deftly amplify those flavors and set the barroom abloom, making for an experience far greater than the sum of its parts (and one you’ll be happy to savor).

Shaun has been in the restaurant industry for over a decade and behind the bar for eight of those years, including at the James Beard Award–winning Woodberry Kitchen. In Richmond, Virginia, he found a home at The Rogue Gentlemen crafting seasonal cocktails and managing the bar program at its sister restaurant, Yaki. Shaun is now bartending at Alpine-influenced restaurant and bar Brenner Pass.

The Road to Excess, as you’ll soon find out, is paved with the very best of libations! This eye-catching cocktail from Tara Heffernon has a slew of memorable surprises in store. As you lift your coupe and start down the path, you’ll immediately pick up on the aroma and flavor of herbal, citrusy rosewood. And to tame such a uniquely piquant element, we’ve turned to cooling passion fruit, floral saffron, and just enough acid (phosphate!) to bring this punchy combo (somehow) even more to life. And of course, it’s all stirred up with the perfect supporting player—pisco—into a brilliant, near-fluorescent shade of sunset yellow. 

Tara is a co-founder of and working bartender at Duke’s Spirited Cocktails in Healdsburg, CA. They’re as green as they can be and are absolute localists, making everything themselves that they can—shrubs, syrups, bitters, tinctures, etc. Tara in particular is known for her obsessive use of homegrown ingredients, though she’s a slave to balance first and foremost (an eleven-ingredient cocktail, she says, should have the grace you find in a three-ingredient cocktail).

Amid Peru’s striking coastal desert is the Paracas National Reserve, a protected natural area known for its wealth of marine wildlife and dramatic shoreline of wind- and wave-sculpted rock formations. via @viviancromwell

Summer is in full swing, so join us on a journey that will make the most of it. We’ve got vivid drinks for days that’ll have you dancing your August away with Pisco Fever. Other symptoms may include a sharp increase in your bartending skills, an invigorated palate, and an extended period of utter refreshment!

The Shaker & Spoon Team

*not vegan: honey-lavender syrup

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