When it comes to their national spirit, Peru and Chile have a rivalry that stretches back as long as the history of the two countries. Who first made pisco? Who can truly lay claim to it? The matter may never be settled. But their neighbor Bolivia has sidestepped the thorny issue entirely with their own creation: Singani.
Made only from one kind of grape (Muscat of Alexandria) grown in one particular region (parts of the Bolivian Andes, at altitudes of more than 5000 feet), singani shares a great deal with pisco, but has an extremely prominent floral aroma that really stands out. When you try it neat, that floral-fruity aspect fades into grassy, drier spicy notes; it’s a trip.
Singani 63, the brand most widely available in the United States, is a passion project of director Steven Soderbergh, who first tried the spirit when working on his film Che. He fell in love with Singani and worked for years to bring it to the American market. And today, we get to reap the benefits of his obsession. Give these three Singani cocktails a try and see if you don’t fall a little bit in love, too.
Easy: Singani & Bubbles
It’s a no-brainer that a grape-based spirit and fresh grapes work well together, so here we’re combining them with a little lemon and a big float of sparkling wine. We keep it rustic, muddling the fruit and leaving it in the glass; we love the unfussy presentation. Try this and tell us whether it isn’t your new favorite brunch drink.
Instructions: In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle half a lemon (cut that up into pieces before you muddle), plus 10 small red grapes. Smash that all around until you’ve gotten most of the juice out. Add 1 1/2 ounces of Singani, 1/2 an ounce of simple syrup, and ice. Shake that all up until well-chilled, then pour, ice and all, into a wine glass. Top with 2 ounces of sparkling wine (cava works great here). Garnish with a handful of whole grapes, and a straw.
Intermediate: Singani Old Fashioned
While it’s the floral notes that jump out at you, Singani also has earthy-spice notes in the background. In this Old Fashioned, we pump up the warm spice with Angostura bitters and a cinnamon stick, with maple syrup backing it up. A totally unusual summer drink, but an excellent one.
Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, combine 2 ounces Singani, 1/4 ounce of maple syrup, 1 big dash of Angostura bitters, and 1 big dash of orange bitters. Stir until very well-chilled, then pour into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with an orange twist — twisting it over the surface of the drink to pour its citrus oils all over — and a cinnamon stick.
Advanced: Singani Sour
We’re kind of appropriating the national drink of Peru and Chile here, but we’re hoping you’ll forgive us because it’s so damn delicious. This take on the pisco sour is a great showcase for the floral-citrus notes of Singani, in an almost impossibly easy-to-drink little package. We might actually prefer this to a pisco sour. Don’t tell the rest of South America.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker without ice, combine 2 ounces Singani, 1/2 ounce of lemon juice, 1/2 ounce of lime, and 3/4 ounce simple syrup. Add 1 egg white. Shake all that up hard without ice (that's called a "dry shake"). Add ice and shake again (the "wet shake"). Strain into a coupe. Garnish with a few drops of Angostura.