Pisco Sour


by Scott Sadil

Even if you’re lucky enough to chase steelhead this time of year, or you’ve still got reason to stalk the tropics, or the stars have aligned in such a way that you’ve been granted nightly glimpses of the Southern Cross, there comes a time, often about now, when you need to take a break, shifting your attention to repairs and maintenance you’ve neglected during the long arc of a modern fishing season.

The list, this year, seems especially long.  Not one but two broken rods, a reel with a persistent growl either way you spin it, another to unload and reverse the retrieve on, after borrowing it to back up the noisy one – plus wading boots that need re-stitching, holes to fill in the assorted fly boxes, the seemingly countless new patterns I really do want to learn how to tie, the stack of books to read on everything from streamers to big-game sport, and on and on and on.

Frankly, I’m not a big fan of any of it.

It’s probably a mindset.  Or a personality trait.  Some people seem to enjoy caring for gear; some, if not many, even like housecleaning, keeping their living quarters tidy and neat.  There’s a reason, on the other hand, that others of us would rather build boats than scrape and sand and refinish Old Betsy year after year after year.

It’s not an attitude I’m necessarily proud of.  Boats, like guns and fishing gear, should be maintained, kept operable as long as possible.  Nothing seems more disturbing about the current age than the number of electronic devices each one of us has already bought and discarded within the short span of this very young century.  I have rods and reels, on the other hand, that are older than my sons and still do everything they need to do to catch fish.

And I still recall, with profound pleasure, that while building a Paul Gartside row-and-sail dinghy, western red-cedar planking, copper riveted to steam-bent oak frames, I said again and again that I was certain she’d last, if maintained, more than a hundred years.

All of which brings me to the title of this homely missive.  (I hope somebody’s been reading closely enough to wonder.)  The pisco sour, as readers here know, is, along with red wine, a traditional Chilean drink; home for the winter, with gear of one sort or another in various states of disrepair, why not take it upon myself to master, as well, this newfound drink?

First, you need your pisco; get online and locate a bottle at your local specialty spirits store.  You may be tempted, because of the name, by Macchu Pisco.  Resist; you’re looking for a Chilean, not Peruvian, pisco, although I doubt you can go too far wrong either way.

Once you’ve got your bottle of pisco, you’re all but there.  The remaining ingredients include fresh lime juice, simple syrup (one part sugar to one part water, brought to a boil then allowed to cool), an egg white, ice, and Angostura (aromatic) bitters.  Proportions vary recipe to recipe; after many attempts, I’ve settled on two parts pisco to one part lime juice and one part simple syrup.  Measure and pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker. (A big peanut butter jar, clean, with lid, will also work.) Add an egg white, then a handful of ice cubes.  Close the shaker or jar and shake vigorously.  Strain; the egg white helps create a foamy head on the drink, which you then garnish with accents of bitters.

That’s it.  The taste?  If you’ve been to Chile, you know what you’re after; adjust proportions accordingly.  If you’re not sure you have it right, don’t despair.  You’ve got a bottle of pisco with which to practice.  

I’m sure, by the end of it, you’ll get it just right.


Gray’s Angling Editor Scott Sadil advises anglers and readers alike to drink responsibly in whatever country, or state, they find themselves.