The pisco sour cocktail, made with a grape brandy called pisco, egg whites, lime juice, ice, simple syrup, and bitters, is now served by mixologists around the globe. In the Ica region of Peru, about 180 miles south of Lima along the Pan American Highway, pisco has been produced for nearly four centuries. Here, in valleys surrounded by sand dunes, dozens of bodegas (wineries) welcome visitors to taste pisco—Peru’s national spirit—at its source.
In the town of Ica, travel agencies around the Plaza de Armas can arrange bodega tours. You can also take a taxi six miles northeast to Hacienda Tacama Bodega, a 16th-century vineyard where sommeliers offer free sips of acholados (blends) and puros (single varietals) of pisco. “Try the Albilla,” Tacama guide Sandra Ximena Gomez suggested to me. “The grapes are from vines that are more than one hundred years old.” It’s sweet, with touches of banana, lime, and tangerine.
At nearby Bodega El Catador, remnants of old, wooden distillery equipment decorate the property. Take a tour, then visit the bar to sample the crema de pisco, a sort of Peruvian Bailey’s. Next, ask your driver to take you to Bodega Vista Alegre, a former Jesuit monastery that is now one of the largest pisco producers in the region.
Afterward, head north along the Pacific Coast to the new Libertador Paracas Resort and Spa. For a potent nightcap, try an algarrobina at the resort’s bar. This sweet, creamy pisco cocktail is made with syrup from the algarrobo (carob) tree of northern Peru. Or, order pisco served neat, in a tiny snifter—the drink of a true aficionado.
This appeared in the March/April 2010 issue.