It might not be familiar in 2015, but if you were a prospector during the Gold Rush you'd know about pisco. Made popular in the 1800s by San Francisco’s Bank Exchange bar and their signature Pisco Punch, the Peruvian grape-based brandy was the “it” spirit on the West Coast until Prohibition. After that dark period, it was all but forgotten. But the real death sentence came when cheaper, easier-to-attain tequila came on the market. Now, pisco is finally making a comeback.
James Schenk has been banking on a pisco resurgence for years. He opened Pisco Latin Lounge, one of the only modern-day pisco bars in the US, in San Francisco in 2009. “It’s amazing watching the evolution of pisco,” he says. “People are recognizing its versatility and its purity. It’s basically the most unadulterated spirit on the market. It really has just one ingredient: grape juice. There are no additives. No sugar. No water. No oak. No botanicals or aromatics.”
While it’s cropping up on cocktail bars across the country and a quickly growing spirit category, pisco is still a mystery to most. Here, a helpful pisco primer from Schenk.