Pisco is one of the hottest Peruvian exports right now and it’s time we all started to take it seriously, says Enrique Sanchez. A mixologist based in San Francisco, California, Sanchez is passionate about pisco and explains he considers it practically his duty to share the national spirit of his homeland, Peru.
“I think Latin spirits are really helping expand American cocktail menus beyond lemon drops and cosmopolitans,” says Sanchez, who left Lima, Peru for San Francisco at just 21 years old. Sanchez didn’t know any English when he first arrived but while working his way up from dishwasher to barback, quickly learned that he was meant to pursue a career in bartending.
“I remember being in awe by how creative you could be behind the bar,” recalls Sanchez, who credits prominent mixologists like Dominic Venegas as an early inspiration. Sanchez says he’s always considered pisco as a gateway to Peruvian culture and cuisine, and at every restaurant he’s worked at – including San Fran eateries Tres Agaves, Restaurant LuLu and Peruvian hotspot La Mar Cebicheria Peruana – he’s introduced patrons to his favorite spirit.
“I haven’t met a single person that doesn’t love pisco sours,” says Sanchez, who is now the lead bartender at Italian eatery Rosa Pistola. And while Sanchez recalls mixing up classic pisco sours – consisting of pisco, egg white and fresh lemon juice – at just 14 years old at family parties, he says his approach now is understandably a bit more sophisticated.
“It’s a lot of fun to experiment pairing pisco with bitters, fresh herbs, fruits,” explains Sanchez, of the clear spirit made from distilled grapes. He also prides himself on implementing molecular gastronomy in his cocktails, noting that he loves adding elements like foams and agar agar caviar to his recipes. But, he says, the best cocktails are the simplest and with that in mind, he’s sharing one of his favorite cocktail recipes here. Crisp pisco, herbal elderflower syrup and Amaro Averna, a citrus and herbal infused Italian liqueur, are blended for a well-balanced cocktail layered with flavor; it’s a reflection of the Italian restaurant where he works and an homage to his Peruvian roots.
“I’m always looking forward,” says Sanchez. “But at the same time, I always represent my culture wherever I am.”
1-3/4 parts Pisco Portón
3/4 part fresh lemon juice
3/4 part Darbo Elderflower Syrup
1/2 part Averna
1/2 part egg white
Preparation: Combine all ingredients in a shaker. Shake vigorously without ice. After dry shake, add ice and shake all ingredients again. Shake contents over a martini glass. Garnish with 1 mint leaf and a dash of Angostura bitters.