Live Pisco, Know Pisco, Enjoy Pisco

Live Pisco, Know Pisco, Enjoy Pisco

Hans Hilburg

This month is festive for many reasons, one of which is the 100 year anniversary of the famed and national favorite, Pisco Sour.

Dear friends,

I wanted to begin with a warm greeting to all of you and also express how pleased I am that once again I have been invited by our friends at Living in Peru to write about what I am most passionate about: Pisco and its mixology.

I want to take advantage of this last month of 2016 to close the year on a high note. We are saying goodbye to the 100 year anniversary (1916-2016) of the creation of our incomparable Pisco Sour. And I say incomparable because there is nothing better than a great Pisco Sour when made to perfection; that is to say, delicious, foamy, creamy, ice cold and refreshing to the last drop!

The Pisco Sour was born at the Morris Bar, which opened its doors to the public in Lima in early 1916. An aristocratic bar of its time, the Morris Bar was located in the heart of Lima, half a block from the Plaza San Martí­n, on Calle Boza. Known as Jirí³n de la Unií³n today, this street was where the crí¨me de la crí¨me of Peruvian society once gathered.

The bar's owner and creator was Victor Morris, an American citizen.

Back in March of 1904, Victor Morris was living in Cerro de Pasco working as an executive of the railroad. Twelve days before July 28, 1904, coinciding with the 83rd anniversary of the independence of Peru, the first train arrived in Cerro de Pasco with much pomp and circumstance. The inaugural event was truly extraordinary with around five thousand people in attendance and widely covered by all of the newspapers of the time.

A young Morris, and (Photo courtesy of Academia Peruana del Pisco)

The stage had been prepared to receive all of the illustrious personalities of the time, including ambassadors, mining delegates, lawyers, doctors, priests and numerous members of society. The ladies of the town had taken two flags, a Peruvian one and an American one. Each flag was made of silk detailed with gold and silver threads and placed on the front of the locomotive engine with the number 'œ100' emblazoned across its grill. Hundreds of Peruvian and American flags were placed all along the first class wagons. All of the citizens of this mountain town came out for this event.

In his role as Superintendent, Victor Morris was the host of the event and was in charge of the decorations and the cocktails. What he later told his relatives about this event was that due to the large crowds that showed up for the event, he couldn't use whiskey to make the sours because there wouldn't be enough. So, Morris opted for using the local spirit, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the result was quite good. That afternoon, after many toasts and presentations, the event came to a close in the evening, thus giving birth to the origins of the Pisco Sour.

At this point I want to point out that using the local spirit (Yonke, made from sugar cane), would later give rise to the creation of our Pisco Sour, made, of course, from our 'œone and only' pure grape spirit.

By then married to Mary Isabel Vargas and with three children, Victor Morris retired and decided to move to Lima. This is where he would go on to open the Morris Bar in 1916 and eventually create the original Pisco Sour.

He never imagined that the Pisco Sour would turn out to be such a hit in his bar, yet it soon became a favorite among his clients who made his bar the place to be seen among Lima high society.

What comes after the Morris Bar is another story. According to Giselle Plenge in her book “El Bar” (from her collection 'œTras la barra del bar,' June 1998), a young bartender by the last name of Mesarina worked with Mr. Morris. He learned the tricks of the trade at the Morris Bar and later became the head bartender at the newly inaugurated Hotel Maury, in downtown Lima; here he continued to prepare the now famous Pisco Sours. A new bartender joined Mesarina, named Graciano Cabrera. Cabrera was later sent to an international bartending competition in Colombia, where he won with the Pisco Sour. This is how our cocktail began to gain international recognition.

Throughout this centennial year (2016), several important events have taken place in celebration of our Pisco Sour's 100 years. Although, I personally feel that there should have been many more.

The national Pisco Academy, along with its President Eduardo Dargant Chamod, paid homage to our Pisco Sour with three very special events:

-Placing flowers on and hosting a toast at the bust of Victor Morris, located at the Parque de la Amistad, in Surco.

-Placing of a bronze plaque at the building on Jirí³n de La Unií³n (previously Calle Boza) where the Morris Bar used to be in downtown Lima.

-The inauguration of the 'œMorris Salon,' within the 'œEl Pisquerito' Bar and Pisco Cultural house located in the district of Pueblo Libre.

Until next time, when I share my thoughts on “The Perfect Pisco Sour.”

Some items are excerpts are from Hans Hilburg Vivar book 'œPeru la Tierra Del Pisco: la Nueva Coctelerí­a Peruana.'

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