Pisco is a grape brandy from Peru that first arrived in San Francisco since before the Gold Rush. Born in San Francisco, the Pisco Punch is one of the most important drinks in San Francisco’s cocktail history. It was first made by Duncan Nicol in the late 1800’s at the Bank Exchange in North Beach, but the bartender took his secret recipe to the grave and the cocktail disappeared shortly thereafter due to Prohibition.
The inspiration for this recipe came from The Pisco Book by Gregory Dicum, which includes versions by Pisco historian Toro-Lira and Pisco mixologist McDonnell. Since I like to cook, I decided to make my own simple syrup for this recipe. My goal was to create a cocktail that is simple and accessible, but also with flavors that are rich, crisp, and refreshing. The pineapple garnish is a visual reminder of the main ingredient in the original recipe, and the crunchy apple adds a nice contrast and texture.
Before Prohibition, there were 3 things every tourist had to do when visiting San Francisco: watch the sunset over the Golden Gate, ride a street car, and drink a Pisco Punch. Kipling wrote that the Pisco Punch was composed of the shavings of cherub’s wings, the glory of a tropical dawn, and the red clouds of sunset. Today, Pisco is part of a cocktail renaissance in its North American home, and this cocktail pays homage to the beautiful historical connection between Peru and San Francisco.