Crisp pisco punch is perfect for a gathering among friends this weekend. (Photo/Erica Mayyasi)

Weekend Cocktail: Pisco that packs a punch

If there’s one thing know about pisco it’s this: it’s tasty in countless types of cocktails beyond the usual pisco sour (as delicious as it is!). And with the arrival of spring time, there’s no better cocktail to kick off a season of warm evenings spent with friends than a pisco punch, made bright with sunny citrus and tangy fruit juices. That’s right: while the idea of breaking out the punch bowl may seem a bit antiquated, when the conversation is flowing, you as the host won’t want to leave to in order to mix up drinks one at a time. Enter the punch, easy to prepare (really, you just pour the ingredients into a bowl and stir to combine) and absolutely perfect for entertaining.

“Great drinks don’t have to be complicated,” says Carlos Yturria, a mixologist and bar consultant whose tropical fruit creations and complex mezcal cocktails round out the bar program at Don Ramon’s restaurant in San Francisco, California. “That’s a misconception I’m always fighting.”

Yturria believes that the great flavors  of a cocktail should compliment the nuances of wonderful food; his aperitif-style drinks are made to enhance an evening rather than detract from a great experience.

“My cocktails are always high in acid, not sweet and never anything creamy,” says Yturria, who became one of the Bay Area’s leading mixologists thanks to his time at Bacar, a fine-dining restaurant that helped establish the cocktail scene in San Francisco. “I want you to taste food the way it should taste and enjoy that experience with the people you care about.”

Yturria is passionate about the use of pisco in his cocktails and it’s no small wonder, given that San Francisco is known as a city built on the spirit. Pisco is first and foremost a Spanish spirit, says Yturria, because it was made by Spaniards in the Spanish territories of Chile and Peru in the 1500s; when colonialists made their way from South America to the west coast, they brought pisco with them. Naturally then, San Francisco’s spirit of choice was pisco rather than Mexican tequila or mezcal, which was not widely produced nor popular until much later.

“The country’s first importers of pisco are here as well,” says Yturria of pisco, a spirit distilled from 100% white Muscat grapes. “We’re a city that loves pisco and accordingly, we treat it with a lot of respect.”

Pisco is made party-ready with the addition of lime and fresh fruit juices.

Pisco is made party-ready with the addition of lime and fresh fruit juices.

That includes mixing up the spirit in a variety of cocktails, including punch – San Francisco residents claim pisco punch was invented by one of their own at the end of the 19th century – and Yturria’s version is more tart than sweet; heavy on the citrus, it tastes very much like a lemonade with the viscosity of the pineapple and pisco accented by the floral notes of pomegranate. Perfect with nearly anything – beef, chicken, fried foods and tomato-sauced Mexican dishes like enchiladas or chile rellenos – it’s a cocktail you can mix up and sip with satisfaction, knowing you’re paying a bit of homage to San Francisco’s history.

Don Ramon’s Pisco Punch

15 oz KAPPA Pisco
10 oz Lime
10 oz Pineapple juice
5 oz Pomegranate juice
10 Dash Angostura Bitters

Preparation: Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher or bowl; add plenty of ice. Stir well  and serve immediately. Serves 10.

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