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Who makes good Pisco Sours?

I vacationed in Peru this week last year and must have drank at least 1000 pisco sours while down there. I haven't had many since returning, but tried one this weekend at Noir. I think Noir is overpriced and the cocktail skills of the bartenders are a bit inconsistent----they try, but not too hard.

The pisco sour at Noir was easily the worst I've ever had. Bitters were a main ingredient in the drink, making the liquid pink and really heavy tasting. In Peru, bitters were added at the end as a final seasoning, rather than a major component of the drink. The Noir version had little froth because of weak shaking----the froth makes the drink, in my opinion. It was just a poor version all around.

Where have people had success with this drink? Should I go to No. 9 or Eastern Standard for good versions? I'd love it if there was a less expensive option. Do any of the Peruvian restaurants make them well-----I think most of these spots don't have full liquor licenses?

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  1. the bartending at noir isn't very good. even for their house drinks. piscos at esk are terrific. and not outrageously priced.

    can't speak to any of the peruvian restaurants.

    1. Hmmm, I remember bartending at Noir being terrible at first, then getting good when they hired a new bar manager away from the B-Side (Paul?). I've had some good drinks made by their latest bar manager (Ben), albeit at some cocktail events elsewhere where he was a guest bartender. I wonder if this is an issue of Noir being only any good if the manager is actually behind the stick?

      You can get a good Pisco Sour at several places, including the Franklin, the Red Fez, the Alchemist Lounge, Cuchi Cuchi, and Solea in Waltham. It really seems to be catching on (I just bought a bottle of Pisco for my bar, anticipating warmer weather).

      Local cocktail blog drinkboston.com sponsored a Pisco event at the Alchemist recently (which I missed, sadly); see the entry "Pisco'd" at http://www.drinkboston.com/ .

      3 Replies
      1. re: MC Slim JB

        I agree, I've had some good drinks at Noir; it's more erratic than board faves, granted, but it can do the trick.
        I had a good one last fall at Thoreau's Bar at the Wequasset Inn in Chatham, FWIW.
        I'm surprised to read below that Machu Picchu makes them; b/c DoubleMan, I agree w/ you, I believe most Peruvian joints around don't have the licenses to make them?

        1. re: tatamagouche

          I remember reading here that Machu Picchu got a full license when it moved to its new, bigger space across the way in Union Square, Somerville. Most other places I know with Peruvian cuisine (Rincon Limeno, Don Ricardo) are beer/wine only,

        2. Recently had a good one at Anise..in Kendall Sq

          2 Replies
          1. re: 9lives

            Ditto. Frankie makes awesome classic cocktails.

            1. re: penny

              Alas, Frank has departed Anise, and has yet to re-alight anywhere else as far as I know. So... I wouldn't go near the bar there with a 10-foot pole at present.

          2. I am pretty sure when I was last at Eastern Standard one of my friends had a good Pisco Sour.

            3 Replies
            1. re: lissy

              Yes, we had an excellent Pisco Sour at Eastern Standard recently.

              1. re: Rubee

                Really? With the egg-whites and all?

                1. re: Chicky

                  Yes. No 9 Park makes excellent ones too.

            2. I have had decent ones at Toro and at Machu Picchu in Union Square.

              1. Thanks for all the help. It's weird that the best spots for this drink are some of the more sophisticated places in the city because pisco sours are not elegant drinks (at least not in my opinion).

                I remember a great one in Peru made from Pisco infused with coca leaves. It was like a delicious and potent version of red bull and vodka.

                1. I made it to Eastern Standard last night for a few. They were very good, thanks for the recommendations. I think they could've been a tad bit stronger, but other than that they were perfect.

                  While there I tried Harpoon's new beer, Harpoon Brown. Wow, they have a serious stinker with that one. I cannot believe the beer made it out of development.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: DoubleMan

                    I too was hooked on pisco sours in Peru (that English place on the square in Cuzco comes to mind) - helped by the fact that the Peruvian beers were so awful. Anise does a good one. I agree on the Harpoon beer, plus the words "Brown Session" seem to conjure up some euphemistic term for something gone horribly wrong bathroom-wise (to put it politely)

                  2. A related question: does anyone know of a liquor store in the Boston area that sells Pisco? Preferably a variety of brands...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: popehammer

                      Martignetti's in Brighton and Blanchard's in Allston probably have the best selection. Lots of places carry one or two brands.

                      There's a long-running national argument between Peru and Chile as to who "owns" the pisco designation, and some marked differences in production methods and the style of the resulting product. As with every liquor in the world, there are now some fancier bottlings -- I don't know enough to tell whether there's some serious artisinal production behind them or just more expensive packaging. An example is Macchu Pisco, which I"ve seen at Brix. I also saw a very sleek-looking bottle of a brand I'd never heard of (sorry, can't recall the name) behind the bar at Sage the other night.

                      I currently have a bottle of C├ęsar Pisco Especial (<$20) from Peru on my bar: it's very light in color (many piscos are unaged, but a few fancier Peruvian ones are yellowish from brief oak aging) and a bit rough, which is closer to what I remember sampling in Lima.

                      A couple of articles from the drinkboston cocktail blog here: http://drinkboston.com/category/pisco/ . I'm sorry I missed that pisco event at the Alchemist.

                    2. Try The Biltmore in Newton where the head bartender knows his stuff. Mine was both tasty and presented well (has both red and green grapes in it), and much more reasonably priced than Noir to boot.

                      1. I talked to the chef from Taranta tonight at Chocolate Madness (where they were sampling their quinoa cookies) and she said they generally don't make pisco sours for various reasons... but they do stock pisco and have a number of other pisco drinks that they'll make... she was pushing one called a Cholopolitan which is on their website, http://www.tarantarist.com/v4/beverag... . She also mentioned that when pressed, they will make pisco sours. From the looks of their drink menu though, I would expect it to be overpriced.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: popehammer

                          Taranta appears to be one of a growing list of restaurants that only have a beer/wine/cordial license but still crave the margins reaped by full-liquor places on shaker drinks. This usually results in a specialty cocktails list full of $10+ concoctions made with flavored vodkas and sticky-sweet liqueurs (see Taranta, Grotto, et. al.), which are fine if you like candy-flavored drinks. I suspect this violates the spirit (no pun intended) if not the letter of a cordials license, which I believe is supposed to be about small quantities of aperitifs and digestifs (like a white port or fino sherry or Campari and soda before dinner, or a Fernet Branca or Zambuca or Pedro Ximenez sherry or LBV port afterwards), not making syrupy 10-oz. Cosmo knockoffs.

                          Pisco is a (mostly) unaged brandy. Flavored vodkas, the bottles I see most commonly served under a cordial license, are 80-100 proof booze. I wonder whether the Massachusetts ABCC would really consider these cordials. But many places are (perhaps knowingly) unclear on the "cordial" concept. I was in a place recently that was serving unflavored vodkas and rums under their cordial license. I asked about this: they seemed to think that anything that wasn't whiskey was okay for them to serve.

                          Maybe Taranta thinks a Pisco Sour is too obviously not a cordial.

                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            Chef at Taranta claimed they don't serve them b/c they don't have any bartenders (apparently servers or cooks mix the drinks?) and they consider pisco sours to be too complicated with the egg and amount of shaking or blending.

                        2. After some time in Chile, I became addicted to Pisco Sours. They were good at Cuchi Cuchi but the bartender who was the best at making them left. Also ... don't even think about trying them at McCormick & Schmicks - pure sour mix. And Marty's sells Pisco.

                          1. Let me preface this by saying I don't know what an authentic Pisco Sour is meant to taste like, but I've had drinks called Pisco Sours which were very good (to my taste) at both Green Street and the Independent.