Over the last few years one of my favorite liquors has become Pisco, a brandy distilled from white muscat grapes. The grapes are grown in two main areas, the region of Pisco, Peru and the Elqui Valley, Chile. A few weeks ago, I was very excited to finally visit Pisco Latin Lounge (a tapas restaurant that specializes in pisco) for the first time!
Two pisco drinks at Pisco Latin Lounge. The drink on the right is pisco punch, which was invented in SF. Rumor has it bartender Duncan Nicol would pour the drink behind a curtain so that the patron could not watch what ingredients went into his drink!
Pisco has a very vibrant history in San Francisco. It was imported to SF since the 1800s but it wasn’t until the gold rush (1849) that it became readily available, and very popular. Below is a drawing that Pisco Latin Lounge had on site, I believe it’s depicting an early gold rush bar.
At the turn of the century pisco became one of San Francisco’s signature drinks served at famous bars such as The Bank Exchange (located where the Transamerica Building is now). It is said that legendary SF bartender Duncan Nicol invented the pisco punch. Pisco gained tremendous recognition due to the praise it received from the likes of Mark Twain, Harold Ross and Rudyard Kipling. Kipling praised pisco in Sea to Sea saying it “is compounded of the shavings of cherub’s wings, the glory of a tropical dawn, the red clouds of sunset and the fragment to lost epics by dead masters.” Enough said, it’s that good!
Sadly with Prohibition The Bank Exchange closed and with it ended pisco’s reign in San Francisco.
So imagine my surprise when 7X7 had an article regarding the revival of pisco in SF. Yes it does seem that everything old in new again!