Peruvian cuisine is considered one of the most diverse in the world. In January,2004, The Economist said that “Peru can lay claim to one of the world’s dozen or so great cuisines” , while at the Fourth International Summit of Gastronomy Madrid Fusión 2006, regarded as the world’s most important gastronomic forum, held in Spain between January 17 and 19, Lima was declared the “Gastronomic Capital of the Americas”.
Thanks to its pre-Incas and Inca heritage and to Spanish, Basque, African, Sino-Cantonese, Japanese and finally Italian, French and British immigration (mainly throughout the 19th century), Peruvian cuisine combines the flavors of four continents. With the eclectic variety of traditional dishes, the Peruvian culinary arts are in constant evolution, and impossible to list in their entirety. Suffice it to mention that along the Peruvian coast alone there are more than two thousand different types of soups, and that there are more than 250 traditional desserts.
There are many restaurants specializing in Peruvian cuisine in many different cities throughout the world.
The great variety in Peruvian cuisine stems from three major influences:
Peru’s unique geography, 84 of the 104 possible life zones according to Holdridge.
Peru’s openness and blending of distinct races and cultures.
The incorporation of ancient cuisine into modern Peruvian cuisine.
Peru is considered an important center for the genetic diversity of the world’s crops:
– Maize (AKA corn), 35 varieties.
– Tomatoes, 15 species.
– Potatoes, 2,000 varieties (in Peru), and 3,000 in the world. The International Potato Center, which goes by its Spanish name’s initials (CIP short for Centro Internacional de la Papa) that is devoted to the investigation and genetic conservation of the potato, is located in Lima, Peru.
– Sweet potatoes, 2,016 varieties.
– Peanuts are found as decorative pieces made of gold in several pre-Columbian tombs. Peanuts were later taken by Spanish and Portuguese merchants to Africa. Thereafter peanuts were introduced in the American south by African slaves.
– Fish, 2,000 species of fish, both freshwater and saltwater (more than any other country on Earth).
– Fruit, 650 native species.
It is also famed for its large number of species of bananas. The variety of climate itself can provide for the bringing of fruits from all the world. From Peru, the Spanish brought back to Europe foods which would become staples for many peoples around the world.
Potatoes: Potatoes were considered livestock feed in Europe until French chemist Antoine-Augustin Parmentier began serving dishes made from the tubers at his lavish banquets. His guests were immediately convinced that potatoes were fit for human consumption. Parmentier’s introduction of the potato is still discussed in Europe today.
Maize: Maize is native to all of Central and South America.
Tomatoes: Tomatoes were introduced to Europe from Latin America.
and many other food products.
From its interaction with Africa through Spain, Peru imported diverse foods such as bananas, and yams.
Cultivation of ancient plants
Some plants that were cultivated by the ancient societies of Peru have now been rediscovered by modern Peruvians and are carefully studied by scientists. Due to the characteristics of its land and climate and due to the nutritional quality of its products, some Peruvian plants will play a vital role in the nutrition of the future: this is true for quinoa, which is an excellent source of essential amino acids, and kañiwa which appear to be and are prepared like cereals but are not cereals. Root vegetables such as maca and real cereals like kiwicha are also plants nutritionists are researching today. For many of Peru’s inhabitants, these foodstocks allow for adequate nutrition even though living standards are poor. The abandoning of many of these staples during the Spanish domination and republican eras has brought down nutritional levels in the country. Some of these foodstocks have been used since 1985 by NASA for astronaut food, like quinoa, kiwicha and maca.
Peruvian cuisine is often made spicy by means of ají pepper, a basic ingredient. Some Peruvian chili peppers are not spicy but serve to give color to dishes. Rice often accompanies dishes in Peruvian cuisine, and the regional sources of foods and traditions give rise to countless varieties of preparation and dishes.
Fine Peruvian cuisine emphasizes the mix of colors and ingredients, in a dynamically growing restaurateur industry and trends led by young and talented chefs.
The following are just a few of the many dishes which are generally popular with the Peruvians. Some of these originated in other parts of Peru but most are well known and can be found in some part of Lima.
Peru is a country that holds not just a variety of ethnic mixes since times ranging from the Inca Empire, the Viceroyalty and the Republic, but also a climatic variety that sometimes is not believed by outsiders: 28 of a possible 32 world climates. The mixing of cultures and the variety of climates differ from city to city so geography, climate, culture and ethnic mix determine the variety of local cuisine.
The cuisine of the Coast
The cuisine of the coast can be said to have four strong influences: the Moorish, the African, the Chinese and the local native.
The Pacific Ocean is the principal source of aquatic resources for Peru. Peru is one of the world’s top two producers and exporters of unusually high-protein fishmeal for use in livestock/aquaculture feed. Its richness in fish and other aquatic life is enormous, and many oceanic plant and animal species can only be found in Peru. As important as the Pacific is to Peru’s biodiversity, freshwater biomes such as the Amazon River and Lake Titicaca also play a large role in the ecological make-up of the country.
Every coastal region, being distinct in flora and fauna populations, adapts its cuisine in accordance to the resources available in its waters.
Ceviche, with its many different variations (pure, combination, or mixed with fish and shellfish) is a good example of this regional adaptation. Ceviche is found in almost all Peruvian restaurants specialized in this country’s world renowned fish and seafood. Lima alone holds thousands of them, from the simple to very fancy ones. Typically served with camote, or sweet potato.
The chupe de camarones (shrimp cioppino) is one of the most popular dishes of Peruvian coastal cuisine. It is made from a thick freshwater shrimp (crayfish) stock soup, potatoes, milk and chili pepper. Regarded as typical from Arequipa, Chupe de Camarones is regularly found in Peruvian restaurants specialized in Arequipan cuisine.
The cuisine of Lima and Central Coast
A center of immigration and centers of the Spanish Viceroyalty, Lima and Trujillo have incorporated unique dishes brought from the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors and the receiving of many waves of immigrants: African, European, Chinese, and Japanese. Besides international immigration—a large portion of which happened in Lima—there has been, since the second half of the 20th century, a strong internal flow from rural areas to cities, in particular to Lima. This has strongly influenced Lima’s cuisine with the incorporation of the immigrant’s ingredients and techniques (for example, the Chinese extensive use of rice or the Japanese approach to preparing raw fish).
Creole cuisine is the most widespread in this cosmopolitan city. Some international cuisines with a large presence include Chinese (known locally as Chifa) and Italian. The city’s ubiquitous bakeries are another culinary treasure, where you may find just out of the oven bread from 6 to 9 am and from 4 to 6pm. Few coastal cities bakeries produce “bollos”, which are loaves of stone and wood-oven baked bread from the Andes, the great Peruvian mountains.
Anticuchos are brochettes made from a beef heart marinated in a various Peruvian spices and grilled, often sided with boiled potatoes and corn. They are commonly sold by street vendors and served shish kabob-style, but you may find them in creole food restaurants.
Also frequently sold by street vendors are tamales: boiled corn with meat or cheese and wrapped in a banana leaf. They are similar to humitas, which consist of corn mixed with spices, sugar, onions, filled with pork and olives and finally wrapped in the leaves of corn husks. Tamales are a common breakfast food, often served with lima and/or “Salsa Criolla.”
Another favorite food to be found in many restaurants is Papas a la huancaína (Huancayo-style potatoes), a dish consisting of sliced boiled potatoes, served on a bed of lettuce with a slightly spicy cheese sauce with olives. Even if the name says that it is from Huancayo, it is actually from Chosica, in Lima, made by a “Huancaina” (a person from huancayo).
Ceviche, often spelled “cebiche” in Peru, is the flagship dish of coastal cuisine, and one of Peru’s favorites. It is the quintessence of fusion: Andean chili peppers, onions and acidic aromatic lime, of a species imported by the Spanish, though with origins in Northern Africa (“limon” in Spanish). A spicy dish, it consists generally of bite-size pieces of white fish (such as corvina or white sea bass), marinated raw in lime or lemon juice mixed with chilis. Ceviche is served with raw onions, boiled sweet potatoes (camote), toasted corn (cancha), and sometimes a local green seaweed yuyo. Leche de tigre (tiger’s milk), is the Peruvian colloquial name for the juice produced from the ingredients of ceviche. It has a light spicy flavor and serves as a good reconstituent. Local custom recommends ceviche as a breakfast for sleepwalkers, a hangover cure and as an aphrodisiac. Unlike ceviche from Mexico and Ecuador, it does not have tomatoes, and unlike that of Tahiti it does not use coconut milk, though both are abundant in Peru. A variation available in Callao replaces mango for fish.
Tiradito is the younger brother of ceviche, and shows more clearly the influence that Japanese cooks have had in Peru’s seafood cuisine (though some suggest that it’s closer to Italian carpaccio, popularized by Genovese immigrants). The fish is sliced in fine strips (about 6 cm by 2 cm) that are similar to sashimi, and then marinated in a mix of lime juice, ginger and ají limo. Unlike ceviche, tiradito lacks onions, which translates into a subtler taste.
Papa rellena (stuffed potato): mashed potatoes stuffed with ground (minced) meat, eggs, olives and various spices and then deep fried.
Arroz tapado (covered rice): uses the same stuffing of papa rellena, but rather than used as a stuffing, it is accompanied by rice.
Sancochado: A hearty beef and vegetable stew which includes yuca (cassava) and camotes (sweet potatoes).
A local staple found in many cheaper, as well as more up-market, restaurants is lomo saltado, sliced beef (if made from the tenderloin it is “lomo fino”) stir fried with onion, tomato, soy sauce, vinegar, chili (aji) and served or mixed with French fried potatoes (aka “chips”), and accompanied with rice.
Lima has an abundance of Peruvian-style Chinese restaurants or “chifas” as they are known locally; indeed, arroz chaufa or Chinese style rice is one of the frequently sampled dishes that has found its way into Peruvian cuisine.
Arroz con pollo, or rice with chicken, is enjoyed for its rich-flavored rice combined with chicken.
Chupe de pescado or fish cioppino is popular in Lima and along the coast.
Lima butter bean (pallares) salad: a salad made with (obviously) Peruvian Lima butter beans (called pallares in Perú), boiled (but still whole) and mixed (when cooled) with a “salsa” of onions, slices of tomatoes, and green ají (chili), marinated in green Peruvian lime juice, oil, salt, and vinegar. Lima butter beans (pallares) have been part of the Peruvian cuisine for at least 6,000 years.
Butifarras: a sandwich in a hamburger-type bread roll and consisting of Peruvian ham with a special spicy sauce consisting of sliced onions, sliced chili peppers , lime (or lemon) and sat pepper and oilb.
Causa in its basic form is a mashed yellow potato dumpling mixed with lemon, onion, chili and oil. Varieties can have avocado, chicken, tuna (typically canned) or even shellfish added to the mixture. Also Causa is very popular in Lima which distinguishes this dish by saying Causa Limeña Causa is usually served cold with hard boiled eggs and olives.
Carapulcra is an appetizing stewed dish of pork and chicken, dried potatoes, red chilis, peanuts and cumin. The version from the Afro-Peruvian Ica region uses fresh potatoes.
Empanadas peruanas (Peruvian pastries/meat pies). These are not to be confused with the meat pies found in many northern Western countries) They can be filled either with chicken, beef, cheese or be strictly vegetarian. They have a unique taste due to the addition of olives and sometimes hard boiled eggs and raisins.
Ají de gallina (chili chicken) is thin strips of chicken served with a creamy yellow and spicy sauce, made basically with ají amarillo (yellow chilis), cheese, milk, bread, and walnuts. Traditionally from non-laying hens, but today almost exclusvely made from more tender chickens.
Escabeche criollo (pickled fish): “Escabeche” when the word is used alone normally refers to escabeche of fish. Other varieties can use duck or chicken. The escabeche dishes rely in the cooking on the heavy use of vinegar and onions together with other spices and chili.
Cau cau is a meal consisting of mondongo or tripe stew and accompanied by rice. There are a number of versions of Cau-Cau. In general cau-cau is a style of cooking being there seafood cau-cau, shellfish cau-cau, etc. Two noteworthy styles are the creole style simply called Tripe Cau-Cau, and the Italo-Peruvian style. The creole is made with strips of previously cooked tripe, seasoned by a mixture of sauteed onions, garlic, yellow aji, a pinch of turmeric, salt and pepper and chunks of boiled potatoes. The mixed is allowed to cook together to blend the tastes and acquire consistency. It is then sprinkled with spearmint or mint. The other common version is the “Italian” style. It consists of strips of precooked tripe sauteed with a mixture of red onions, peeled tomatoes, tomato paste and dried mushrooms (Porcini). After the flavors blend is is seasoned with parsley and mixed with fried potato strips just prior to serving. Some chefs add a few tablespoons of wine or pisco following the sautee step. These recipes may have African and Chinese influence as well as Italian.
Chicharrones: a dish consisting of deep-fried (in its own fat) and heavily salted pork. There are at least two kinds of chicharrones: pork skins, and country style ribs first boiled until dried and until they render their own fat where the continue the browning process required for them to be called chicharrones. There are other types of chicharrones including deep fried squid, and other seafoods. They can be served at breakfast or any time of day.
The cuisine of the Northern Coast
The cuisine of the northern coast offers a difference in style from the central and southern varieties. This is not only due to the coastal native Indian influence (less Andean), the Moorish and Spanish influence, the African and the Gypsy influence (Hindustani); but also to the warmer coastal seas, hotter climate and immense geographical latitude variety.
The widely different climates between Tumbes, Piura, Lambayeque, La Libertad, Cajamarca and San Martin contributes to the variety of dishes in these areas.
Northern Style Dishes:
Shambar, Chinguirito, Pez Guitarra, Seco de Cabrito (goat stew, but goat is often substituted by lamb, chicken, or beef) is made in a pot after marinating with chicha de jora or beer and other spices including fresh coriander leaves (cilantro) and garlic. This is most popular in the northern coast especially in Cajamarca and Lambayeque.
Seco de Chavelo (typically from Catacaos – Piura is a type of seco that is made of cecina stewed and dried meat that has been clotted and dried along with bananas, yuca, aji panca and the addition of Clarito (from Chicha de Jora the Piurano style).
Cebiche de Conchas Negras (ceviche with black shells) is a dish of Piura and Tumbes is also popular along the southern coast of Ecuador due to Peruvian influence. In this version of ceviche, the seafood used in the dish should be black clams accompanied toasted corn.
The cuisine of the Andes
In the valleys and plains of the Andes, the locals’ diet continues to be based on corn (maize), potatoes, and an assortment of tubers as it has been for many hundreds of years. Meat comes from indigenous animals like alpacas and guinea pigs, but also from imported livestock like sheep and swine.
As with many rural cultures, most of the more elaborate dishes were reserved for festivities, while daily meals were simple affairs. Nowadays, the festive dishes are consumed every day, although they tend to be on the heavy side and demand a large appetite.
The pachamanca is a very special banquet in and of itself. Cooked all over the Andean region of Peru, is made from a variety of meats (including pork and beef), herbs and a variety of vegetables that are slowly cooked underground on a bed of heated stones. It demands skillful cooks to create and a large number of guests to consume. Because of its tedious preparation it is normally only done for celebrations or festivals in the Andes, though recent years have seen the appearance of many “campestre” restaurants outside Lima where urban families can escape to spend an afternoon in the fresh air eating pachamanca. Such as in Cieneguilla. Places for Pachamanca in Lima Surroundings.
Andean cooking’s main freshwater fish is the trout, raised in fisheries in the region.
Currently, ostrich meat is being raised from farms in Arequipa, although its consumption is not widespread and limited to urban areas.
Cuy chactado: A dish more popular in the highlands is this meal of fried guinea pig. Often the indigenous women of the Peruvian Andes will raise the guinea pigs in their huts where they run around loose on the floors of the dwellings. Prior to consumption they can reach a surprisingly large size. Besides the use of guinea pigs as separate meals, they are often cooked in a Pachamanca with other meats and vegetables.
Olluquito con charqui: is another typical Andean dish. Olluco is a yellowish tuber (Ullucus tuberosus) domesticated by pre-Inca populations, and is visually similar to colorful small Andean potatoes, but with a distinct crunchy texture when cooked. Charqui is the technique employed in the Andean highlands to cure meat by salting, then dehydration. Incidentally the word “jerky” in English is derived from this Andean (Qechuan) word. The dish is a stew of finely diced ollucos with charqui pieces (traditionally alpacea, or less frequently llama meat, though today it is also very commonly made from sheep), served with white rice.
Rocoto relleno: Arequipa dish made from stuffed rocoto chilis. Rocotos are one of the very hot (spicy) chilis of Peru. In this dish they are stuffed with spiced beef or pork, onions, olives, egg white and then cooked in the oven with potatoes covered with cheese and milk.
The cuisine of the Jungle
Naturally, jungle cuisine is made using the products local to the area. Although many animal species are hunted for food in the biologically diverse jungle, two standouts are the paiche (the world’s largest freshwater fish) and turtles. Hunting turtles is prohibited in Peru, therefore turtle-based dishes are scarce and expensive and not sold à la carte in restaurants.
Among the fruits of Peru’s jungle is the camu camu, which contains 40 times more vitamin C than the kiwifruit. Exotic fruits such as mango and pineapple are also in abundance.
Other regional dishes
Chalona is a cured meat originally obtained from alpaca but today lamb is often substituted. Its origins are not very clear, but it is presumed that it comes from the Incan empire. It is used as an ingredient in a variety of dishes of the Puno region, Cusco, and Arequipa. It is prepared using recently-cured lamb in which furrows are made with a knife in order for the salt to penetrate into the meat. The process of salt penetration is important, because from this depends how long the cured meat will last. The meat is left to dry in the sun and cold nights for almost one month.
Chairo: A typical soup of the Puno and Arequipa regions, consisting of black chuño, aji panca (red chili pepper), sweet potatoes, meat and chalona.
Ocopa: A dish with some similarities to Papas a la Huancaina. It consists of boiled and sliced yellow potatoes covered with a sauce of made of aji (chili pepper), walnuts, a Peruvian herb called “Huacatay” (that gives it a vivid green color), and fresh or white cheese, sided with lettuce, boiled eggs and olives. It is usually served in restaurants specialized in Peruvian Typical or Creole Food or restaurants serving food from Arequipa, a southern Peruvian City.
Copús is one of the best known dishes of Piura. Its ingredients are ripe fried bananas, camotes (sweet potatoes), and seasoned hen, turkey, goat, and mutton. The meat is cooked in a furnace under the ground; this method is different from using a pachamanca since the furnace is covered with blankets and clay.
Yuca chupe or cassava soup is one of the variations in which the Peruvians enjoy cassava.
Crema de tarwi (tarwi soup): Tarwi is a vegetable native to the mountains of Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru. In addition to its use in soup, tarwi is used in much of Peruvian cuisine, including sancochado. Fresh tarwi can be used in stews, purees, sauces, desserts and in a variation of cebiche. In some areas, locals call it chocho. Its cultivation has recently expanded to all the countries of the Andean region. In Peru, it is principally grown in the areas of Cajamarca, Ancash, the Mantaro Valley, Ayacucho, Cusco, and Puno.
Tarwi can also be found in beverages (such as papaya juice with tarwi flour). Tarwi has been shown to have a higher vegetable protein content than soy. In pre-Incan and Incan times, it was an important part of the mostly vegetarian diet of the region. It was consumed with small quantities of meat and dried fish, providing an abundant source of protein for the population. Tarwi seeds have been found in Nazca tombs and in representations of Tiahuanaco ceramics.
Chifa (from the mandarin words 吃飯 “chi1 fan4”, meaning “to eat rice”) is the Peruvian term for Chinese food (or for a Chinese restaurant). In the 150 years since its arrival in Peru, the Chinese Peruvian culture has revolutionized Peruvian cuisine, gaining international recognition from those who have had the opportunity to sample it while visiting Peru.
Chifa reflects a fusion by Chinese Peruvians of the products that the Chinese brought with them to those that they found in Peru, and later cultivated themselves. Even some creole dishes such as tacu-tacu, lomo saltado, and arroz chaufa were influenced by the Chinese.
In downtown Lima, on Capón Street, is the barrio chino (Chinatown). The great variety of savory and sweet dishes there, with different types of meats, vegetables, and soups, created a new culinary alternative for Peruvians.
Sweet dishes and desserts
Alfajores: a common dessert made in several varieties. The basic recipe makes use of a base mix of flour, lemon rind, margarine, and powdered sugar which is then oven-baked. Alfajores consist of two or more layers of this baked pastry, and is usually filled with either manjar blanco (a caramel-colored, sweet, creamy filling made with milk and sugar) or molasses.
Turrones (or nougat) (similar to fudge) are of several varieties. One common variety to be found in Lima is Turrón de Doña Pepa, an anise and honey nougat that is traditionally prepared for the Señor de los Milagros (or Lord of Miracles) procession, during October. Turrones are most commonly made from almonds, and can be found in Spanish-speaking countries all over the world.Almost exclusive to Peru is the fruit known as lucuma. Lucuma juice, ice cream, and corresponding lucuma shakes are very popular throughout Peru. Only lucuma ice cream normally can be found in large US cities (typically in Peruvian restaurants). One popular brand of ice cream in Peru is Donofrio, which is owned by Nestlé.
Helados (ice cream): Peru has the usual assortment of common ice cream flavors but also some more exotic flavors such as camu camu, guaraná and tuna, the latter being the local name for the fruit of the prickly pear cactus, and not to be confused with the fish. Peru is one of few countries in the world where the third most popular ice-cream (after vanilla and chocolate) is not strawberry, it is in fact the “nutty” flavored, orange colored lúcuma, which is an exotic fruit grown in quantity only in its native Peru, and only in recent years being exported in very limited quantities as a gourmet flavor (for ice cream and savory sauces) to the USA, and available in Europe essentially only in food shows.
Mazamorra morada: a jelly-like dessert which takes on the color of one of its main ingredients—purple maize. Mazamorra morada is a dessert typical of Peru. A variety of purple corn (maiz morado) grows in Peru that colors and adds a particular flavor to the water in which it is boiled. When that water is cooled and chopped fruit, lemon and sugar is added, and the mixture is served as a beverage, its name is “chicha morada”.
Picarones: a sweet, ring-shaped fritter with a pumpkin base; often served with a molasses syrup.
Picarones are pumpkin fritters that are also eaten as late-afternoon street food during El Señor de los Milagros celebrations. This is another dish that has its origins in the colonial period. Some believe they are a local adaptation of Spanish buñuelos. Picarones are made of squash or pumpkin dough and sweetened with chancaca, raw cane sugar melted into a syrup.
Tejas: candy filled with manjar blanco and coated with a fondant-like shell. Some are also made with a chocolate shell (chocoteja).
Suspiro Limeño: a dessert made of milk. This classic criollo dessert is said to have been named by the famous Peruvian poet and author José Gálvez whose wife doña Amparo Ayarez was famous for her cooking. When asked what inspired the name, he reportedly replied ‘because it is soft and sweet like the sigh of a woman’. In this case, it would be a woman from Lima, a Limeña.
Well-known soft drinks include:
Chicha Morada: a beverage prepared from a base of boiled purple maize to which are added chunks of pineapple, sugar, and ice as it cools. First-timers compare it to Kool-aid, with a pleasant, almost fruity taste. Not to be confused with the fermented beverage chicha (chicha de jora).
Inca Kola: the brand of a popular fizzy soda drink (gaseosa), which is a cultural icon, served literally on the most humble to the most exclusive tables nationwide, alone or with any type of food. Yellow in color, it is sweet and refreshing. Inca Kola is the only national beverage in the world that beat worldwide Coca-Cola in sales.
Less common are:
Refresco de camu camu: Refrescos are basically non-fizzy type and simple juices of various flavours often served with the set menu of the day at smaller restaurants. Besides camu camu, there are more common flavours such as orange juice.
Té de uña de gato: a tea made from a plant from the Amazon, cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa), known for its healing or medicinal properties.
Pisco, a kind of brandy, is the national drink of Peru. This distilled beverage made from grapes is produced in various regions of the country. Pisco Sour is a cocktail made from pisco combined with lemon juice, the white of an egg and sugar.
Wines come from many different regions of the country, most notably from the Ica Region.
Beer as in many countries, is popular in all levels of society. Local brands include Pilsen and Cristal. A couple of regional beers are Arequipeña and Cuzqueña (Cusqueña), from Arequipa and Cuzco, respectively; though Cuzqueña is popular nationwide and is exported worldwide. A common beer drinking ritual among many Peruvian men involves a group sharing one glass. The party holding the bottle waits for the prior person to drink from the glass before receiving that glass, filling it and passing the bottle on to the next in line. While this custom is more common among men of lower echelons of society, people of higher social status, particularly youth and occasionally women, take part in this custom.
Chicha or Chicha de Jora is another well-known drink, based on different varieties of fermented maize and different aromatic herbs, depending on the region of the country. Its consumption is mostly limited to the Andes area.
Pisco: The Peruvian Drink
Pisco is a traditional Peruvian product. It is an exquisite liquor that can be drunk as such, or in all the combinations that one can imagine, including the worldwide famous Pisco Sour.
This liquor (Pisco) is accepted as a word by the ROYAL SPANISH LANGUAGE ACADEMY, which states:
Pisco: Liquor produced originally in Pisco, a city in Peru, Desus. Earthenware jar in which liquor is shipped.
Pisco or grape blandly is a miracle born from the fertile Peruvian desert and the mixture of Indians and Spaniards. More than four centuries ago, peculiar soil, climate, culture and history bred a grape variety that adapted to a land at once millennial and promising, and gave rise to a new spirit of world renown. Like the Sanctuary of Machu Picchu or the starry nights above the Nasca Lines, Pisco has become a symbol to expatriate Peruvians and with which we identify. Pisco is an unparalleled fragrance and taste where Peruvians meet, and a magical place of our culture we invite you to tour with us from the following text.
The True Story
Few words are so intimately linked to Peruvian identity and history as is ‘Pisco’, a Quechua term meaning ‘little bird’.
Nowadays a component in many ethnic family and town names, the word was used to designate an old civilization of Paracas origin overwhelmed by the Incas and whose roots were found in a valley populated by abundant coastal birds near the shores of an immensely rich sea.
When they descended to conquer the coastal lowlands, the Incas found a place on the condor’s flight path from the Andes to the sea which they called Valley of the Condor.
Not much later however, the conquered groups changed the name to Pisco making reference to the large avian population typical of the area. By the time the Spaniards arrived, the Pisco tribe had mastered the making of cone-shaped pots in which they prepared ‘chicha’ and other alcoholic beverages which were also called Pisco.
When the Spaniards brought grape-vines, the Indian word Pisco came to mean grape brandy. By the end of the XVI century, Peruvian maps included Pisco as the name of the port from where the brandy was shipped. Production of casks, wines and brandies started before 1560 and eventually became the predominant economic activity in the mid-central coastal region.
Casks, full or empty, were used as a means of payment to buy houses, land, and slaves, to pay titles and for dowries. Already in 1630, Peru exported through Pisco and Nasca approximately 20 million liters of grape brandy. In those times, lands were irrigated from the plentiful water tables under the coastal region and using sophisticated irrigation systems typical of civilizations from Inca times whose complex social structure and their search for excellence in agriculture have survived to our days.
Many plants such as the potato, tomato, pumpkin and beans, which are staples to present-day mankind were domesticated thanks to this tradition. These old civilizations were also successful in adapting foreign produces such as grapes, and used them to create pisco, one of their most exquisite products.
How to tell true Pisco?
Like any other spirit, true Pisco can be told by its fragrance and taste. However, a test known as ‘rope and rose’ is a simple means to determine quality that can be used by either the connoisseur or the occasional drinker. By shaking a bottle of quality Pisco in circles, a viscous formation will appear spinning in a whirlwind along the bottle’s vertical axis. The column of bubbles is the so called ‘rope’ while the bubbles on top form the ‘rose’.
True Peruvian Pisco can be differentiated from other foreign grape brandies by three characteristics. In the first place, Peruvian Pisco is distilled from fresh new wine especially selected for the making of Pisco, as opposed to those brandies made from new wine with several months’ fermenting or from old wines. Next, Pisco is distilled in stop-and-go stills as opposed to continuous stills which rectify and discard many elements that characterize true Pisco. Third is that alcohol content is never reduced by adding water after distillation. Peruvian Pisco stills must comply with regulations from the Supervisory Commission on Technical Norms, Metrology, Quality Control and Non-Tariff Barriers of the National Institute for the Defense of Consumers and Intellectual Property (INDECOVI). This agency determines and oversees compliance with manufacturing standards. -; As a consequence of guaranteed distillation and non- rectification of Pisco, the resulting product maintains the typical sensory characteristics that come from natural impurities which are volatilized during distillation. Pisco thus produced must be either transparent or slightly amber-colored, and include ethyl alcohol, volatile acids, ethers, aldehydes and higher alcohols, while pure alcohol content fluctuates around 42º GL.
An additional difference between Peruvian piscos and foreign grape brandies is that raw materials for either domestic or factory Pisco making are not exclusively scented muscatel varieties. “; In fact, in ma- king pisco taste is favored over fragrance and, therefore, the grapes used are mainly of the local Quebranta variety and, to a lesser extent, the Common Black and Mollar non-fragrant varieties. INDECOPI’S technical standards list four Pisco varieties by manufacturing process or raw materials used:
- Pure Pisco (Pisco Puro), made from non fragrant grape varieties such as Quebranta, Common Black or Mollar.
- Fragrant Pisco (Pisco Aromático), made from Muscatel, Italy or Albilla grapes.
- Green Pisco (Pisco Mosto Verde), a highly favored kind made from partially fermented cultures.
- Creole (Pisco ‘Acholado’), Pisco made from a mix of grape cultures.
Additionally, ‘Scented’ Pisco, made fragrant during the fermentation or distillation stages, and ‘macerated’ pisco to which fig, mango, cherry, lemon or ‘chirimoya’ (custard apple) flavors are added after fermentation are also produced in Peru, although exclusively for local consumption.
Some Recipies Made With Pisco
1 cup Quebranta pisco
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup white sugar
Method: Put ingredients in blender.
Add a little egg white and 6 ice cubes.
Pour. Sprinkle a few drops bitter or some ground cinnamon.
1/2 cup Pisco
1/2 cup red vermouth
Method: Mix and add ice.
COCTEL DE ALGARROBINA
3 cups Pisco
1 cup carob syrup
1 cup sweet condensed
2 egg yolks
Method: Shake ingredients with some ice cubes.
Pour. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon.
1 cup Pisco
1/2 orange juice
Method: Mix and add ice.