It’s Been a Long Day, Here’s Some Pisco
Mistela in Peru
Pisco reigns supreme in Peru. Walk into nearly any bar or restaurant in Lima and they’ll probably claim to make the best Pisco Sour in the world. The trick is not only to use the right pisco, but to create just enough foam with the egg white. And to make it plenty strong.
Ica is where much of the spirit’s grapes are harvested. It’s an arid city and region along the country’s southwestern coast, and it borders the Atacama desert, the driest non-polar desert in the world. There, the locals prefer to drink their pisco neat. Maybe when you live in one of the driest climates on the planet, there’s not enough time for precisely shaking egg whites for foamy cocktails. You’re thirsty, it’s been a long day, here’s some pisco.
The ritual is thus: a few buddies sit in a circle and pass around a plastic bottle of pisco they just purchased from a local distillery, or maybe they just made themselves. Either way, it’s a relaxed form of puff-puff-pass behavior; pour yourself a shot, sip on it at your leisure while chatting, then hand the bottle and glass to the next guy.
I walk into one such distillery, Lovera, and the place is entirely barren except for the few guys sipping on some pisco. There’s no pristine steel-and-copper machinery, no hard hats, no sparklingly clean floors. It’s all outdoors, with a perma-coat of dust and dirt, sun blazing down.
Even a tourist can jump in on a little drinking session. Although it helps that Peruvian celebrity Johnny Schuler, Pisco Portón’s master distiller, is there to make an introduction.
The locals are puff-puff-passing their pisco, and joking with the inquisitive foreigners getting in on their day drinking. Sitting on the counter are two big jugs, one filled with pisco, the other filled with sweet, unfermented grape juice, so apparently there’s more to be had here at Lovera than just pisco neat. The combination of the two is formally known as Mistela.
I’m passed a glass of the sugary but potent, purple-hued concoction, and after taking a sip my first thought is that it’s a Peruvian dead ringer for Manischewitz, with more of a kick. Hey, you can only compare with what you know.
It turns out that around here there’s another name for Mistela: quita calzón. “Hey Johnny, what does that mean?”
“The Panty Remover,” he says.