Today we present to you another classic Peruvian cocktail, the Capitán. Also known as the “Manhattan Peruano”, this mix of vermouth and pisco represents the fusion of Peruvian and Italian cultures in Peru.
According to “¡Que pase el Capitán!”, vermouth was first imported to Peru from Italy in the year 1859. However, its popularity peaked after WW1 when Italian immigrants in Lima started consuming the botanical fortified wine with Peruvian pisco. The economical cocktail was named after its price, “20 centavos” (20 cents).
When the 20 centavos’ popularity spread beyond the circles of Italian immigrants, its name evolved to Capitán. High in the Andes of Peru in the city of Puno, military captains used to stop in bars during their nightly patrols on horseback and order the 20 centavos cocktail. The bartenders would pass the drink to their uniformed customers saying, “For you, my Captain” (“Capitán” in Spanish). The name “Capitán” soon caught on and has been a part of Peruvian cocktail culture ever since.
Now you can now ponder that bit of history while savoring Kami’s version of the Capitán with PiscoLogía Pisco Acholado and sweet & dry vermouth.
This is part 3 of a series of interviews with Fernando Gonzales-Lattini, a sommelier specialized in pisco, vigneron and producer of premium wine in the Peruvian Andes.
You are interested in terroir and how it affects a wine. What can you say about the terroir at Azpitia?
“Azpitia is interesting because it has sandy soils that can be extremely challenging for viticulture. Nati does an excellent job of working with the conditions there to grow high quality grapes. PiscoLogía’s vineyards in the Mala Valley are at a higher altitude and they are strategically located to allow them to be cooled by the Pacific Ocean breeze. This effect gives the grapes more concentrated flavors and better acidity. Higher quality grapes make a better quality wine, which in turn, makes a better pisco.
I also appreciate Azpitia because it is a very small production region. There are maybe 100 hectares maximum of small farms. That small size, in addition to its unique terroir, makes the pisco crafted there even more rare and special.”
You have observed Nati during production and you have tasted her pisco. What can you say about Nati as a professional?
“I admire Nati for many reasons. First, she is so meticulous in her viticulture practices. In the winemaking world, everyone knows that to make a good wine, you must start in the vineyards. Only high-quality grapes can make a good wine. In the case of pisco, distillation is just one step further in the process. That means the way you care for your grapes translates directly into your pisco. Many pisco producers in Peru buy grapes, but PiscoLogía is made from 100% estate-grown grapes. That allows for Nati to have strict quality control throughout the entire process.
I also like how Nati adheres to tradition and she strictly follows the Denomination of Origin. By demanding a high quality product and never compromising her standards, she is setting the bar for other producers in all of Peru.
Finally, Nati and her team hand select every grape that goes into every bottle of pisco. They also use selective pressing techniques to maximize each grape, but without adding bitterness from the seeds. Nothing is arbitrary in her process. The methodical steps she takes really shine through in the final result- a pisco of Premier Grand Cru quality.”
This is part 2 of a series of interviews with Fernando Gonzales-Lattini, a sommelier specialized in pisco, vigneron and producer of premium wine in the Peruvian Andes.
In your opinion, what makes Peruvian pisco special?
“Pisco is unique because it comes from very high-quality, aromatic organic material: grapes. Compared to other liquors made from grains or potatoes, grapes are so much more aromatic and flavorful in their raw form. The single distillation method used to make Peruvian pisco also allows the full gamut of flavors and aromas to show up in this high quality spirit.
I am a sommelier and I own my own vineyard. Needless to say, I love wine. I think pisco should be appreciated like a fine wine. There are more than 300 descriptors for wine. When you distill wine to make pisco, you concentrate those flavors and aromas even more. The terroir of the vineyards should also be appreciated in every bottle.”
What do you want the world to know about Peruvian pisco?
“People need to try this premium spirit. I guarantee they will be impressed, especially if they are wine-lovers. I can’t emphasize enough the parallels between the two. Just like wine, one can distinguish the characteristics of different grape varieties, vintages, and terroir of pisco. It also pairs beautifully with food.
Tradition is also very important in Peru. We have been making pisco for hundreds of years, which has many benefits. First, we have traditions passed on from generation to generation. Second, we have been perfecting the art of pisco making and selecting the best vines for centuries. We know what regions are most apt for grape growing and what production methods are best. It’s like winemaking in France- their current methods are based on hundreds of years of tradition.”
In Peru, the eight grapes used in pisco production are separated into 2 categories: aromatic and non-aromatic. While the latter categorization might imply that some piscos lack aromas, we would like to clarify that all varieties of Peruvian pisco are highly aromatic. This is due to the production methods required by the Denomination of Origin in Peru. First, Peruvian pisco is distilled one time, which helps bring out the unique aromatic profile of each grape variety. Then it is aged in neutral casks, which enhances the aromas while preserving the original identity of the clear spirit.
In this post, we will list the flavors and aromas of each grape variety used in the production of Peruvian pisco: Quebranta, Negra Criolla, Uvina & Mollar (non-aromatic) and Italia, Torontel, Moscatel, and Albilla (aromatic).
Note: These are general tasting notes, as every pisco is different, depending on the region, the terroir of the vineyards and the methods of the distiller.
Origin: The Quebranta grape is a cross between Negra Criolla and Mollar grapes. It is the most common grape used in pisco production in Peru.
Pisco flavors: Lime, mandarin, flowers, orange blossom & tropical fruit
Origin: Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains. AKA Torrontés.
Pisco aromas: Flowers such as geranium, jasmine and magnolia, citrus, orange blossom & tropical fruit
Pisco flavors: Citrus, honey, tropical fruit & toffee
Origin: There is dispute about the origins of Peruvian Moscatel grapes. One theory is that it comes from the Muscat Rose à Petits Grains grape (Jiménez). This muscat grape is not to be confused with Italia, even though they are from the same family.
El pisco peruano es un aguardiente de uvas que se destila una vez y reposa un mínimo de 3 meses.
La uva quebranta es una de las variedades de uvas pisqueras que se usa para hacer pisco, igual que el cabernet sauvignon y chardonnay son tipos de uva para vino. En Perú, hay ocho variedades de uvas pisqueras: quebranta, negra criolla, mollar y uvina (no-aromáticas) e italia, torontel, moscatel y albilla (aromáticas).
El pisco acholado se hace mezclando un mínimo de dos de las distintas variedades de pisco o dos variedades de uvas antes mencionadas. Nuestra destiladora, Nati hace una mixtura perfecta de uvas quebranta e italia para crear un acholado que se puede usar en cócteles o para tomar solo. Aquí hay más información sobre los dos:
Aromas: Pecanas y azahar
Sabores: Grosella madura y seca, plátano
Maridaje recomendado: Chocolate semi-dulce
2 onzas PiscoLogía Acholado
1 onza jarabe de piña
1 onza limón
.5 onza licor Benedictine
Clara de huevo
Nuez moscada (guarnición)
Sirve en las rocas
Aromas: Herbáceo, plátano dulce caramelizado
Sabores: Almendras tostadas, plátano, pecanas y manzanas verdes ácidas
We set out to write a blog post about literary references to Peruvian pisco
since the word “pisco” was first documented in Peru in the 16th
century. It was pleasantly surprising to find that many prominent writers from
around the world have written about Peruvian pisco over the course of five
However, our euphoria soon dissipated when we realized that none of the
historical texts we studied were written by women. While we do appreciate the
literary contributions of males, especially when the subject is pisco, we
decided to scrap our original blog idea. The absence of women in this realm
compelled us to discuss a subject that is even more pressing for us: the gender
Gender inequality is not just a historical phenomenon and it is not limited
to published works. It is prevalent and oppressive in present day, from the way
we divide household duties to the lack of women in management level positions.
As explained in Global Issues: Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment,
“Globally, women have fewer opportunities for economic participation than men,
less access to basic and higher education, greater health and safety risks, and
less political representation”. This issue affects every country. In fact, it
is so ubiquitous that it will take 108 more years to close the gender gap
around the world (World Economic Forum).
Although this may seem dire, there are ways to accelerate equality between
the sexes. One way is by celebrating the achievements of females. The National
Women’s History Alliance encourages people to recognize the dignity and accomplishments
of women because it promotes higher self-esteem in girls and greater respect
toward women in boys. As a result, girls perform better in school and
communities become less violent. Greater self-esteems and appreciation of women
are not universal cures, but they are an important part of the process of
achieving gender equality.
Taking this advice of the National Women’s History Alliance, we would like
to highlight the accomplishments of one admirable female poet, Blanca Varela.
As a bonus, we will demonstrate how Peruvian pisco played a role in her
Considered one of Peru’s greatest poets, Blanca Varela was born in Lima in
1926. Her mother, Serafina Quinteras, was a composer, poet, writer, singer and
journalist. Following her mother’s footsteps and with persuasion from Octavio
Paz, Blanca published her first poetry book in 1959. She won many awards in her
lifetime, including the Federico García Lorca International Poetry Prize in
2006. She was the first woman to ever receive that prestigious award.
In a short note titled “Amigos, fantasmas y recuerdos”, written in 1974,
Blanca discussed the pisco cocktails she frequently drank at the Peña Pancho
Fierro, a gathering place in the Plaza de San Martín in downtown Lima. She
didn’t reveal the “secret recipe” of the pisco concoction with macerated fruit.
However, she did discuss how inspired she felt in the intimate company of
Peru’s most prominent artistic figures. The “magic circle” included Sebastián
Salazar Bondy, Teresa Carvallo, Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Martín Adán, César
Moro and Fernando de Szyszlo. In “Amigos, fantasmas y recuerdos”, Blanca
sentimentally recalls the time she spent at the Peña Pancho Fierro
(Jochamowitz). We are happy pisco was part of that experience.
Recognizing Blanca Varela is a small advancement in closing the gender gap.
We hope her accomplishments will forge a path for other females in the future
so the next time we revisit written works about pisco, we will find
contemporary female’s names next to men’s. We know we can’t change history, but
we can influence the future.
To close this post, we would like to share a poem written by Blanca Varela, Curriculum Vitae:
say you won the race
and the prize
was another race
you didn’t savor the wine of victory
but your own salt
you never listened to hurrahs
but dog barks
and your shadow
your own shadow
was your only
and disloyal competitor
“Global Issues: Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment.” Global Issues: Gender Equality and Women’s
The Global Gender Gap Report 2018.
World Economic Forum, 2018, The Global
Gender Gap Report 2018, www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GGGR_2018.pdf.
This is part 1 of a series of interviews with Fernando Gonzales-Lattini, a sommelier specialized in pisco, vigneron and producer of premium wine in the Peruvian Andes.
How do you taste pisco and train
“To properly taste a pisco, you need a pisco snifter, like the photo shown above. In a tasting, a sommelier always evaluates 3 aspects: appearance, aroma and flavor. First, take a look at how the pisco looks. A good pisco must be clear and dense. Swirl the pisco around in the snifter to test its viscosity. A viscid pisco will form thick legs on the side of the glass. This is an indication that the pisco is full-bodied and has a good ratio of alcohol/glycerol. Transparency is also very important. Hold the glass up to the light to observe its color. Peruvian pisco is clear when it runs off the still, nothing is added to it, and it isn’t aged in barrels. For those reasons, it should be as clear as water in the bottle.
To detect aromas, I always recommend that people waft toward their noses instead of smelling directly from the snifter. If you inhale too closely, you can overwhelm your sense of smell, making it impossible to distinguish aromas. Piscos made from different grapes will have different descriptors. For example, a quebranta will commonly smell like banana, mango, pecans and raisins. An aromatic pisco like Italia will smell like fruit and flowers such as jasmine. Once you have observed the aromas and appearance, it’s time to taste.
When you taste a pisco, it should feel smooth in your mouth and throat. At no time should you feel a burning or harsh sensation. Identify in your mouth what flavors it has. You should be able to taste the same aromas that you smelled. For example, if you smelled pecans, you should taste pecans. You might be able to discover other flavors too, so pay close attention to how the flavors might change at different stages in the tasting process.
This is the general idea of how to conduct a pisco tasting. Remember that it takes practice to detect the different flavors and aromas of pisco. The more you do it, the more trained your nose and palate will become.”
Kami recently described herself as a Matryoshka doll, her layers unstacked by life experiences, a journey of self-awareness as she progresses through her career. However, when I think of Kami, I envision a mass of snow tumbling down a steep slope, accumulating the necessary mass to gain force, avalanching to its destination.
In the case of Kami, both metaphors apply. She is introspective like the innermost Matryoshka. But like an avalanche, she is also indomitable. Kami is multi-faceted; an avid researcher, activist, spirits specialist, distiller, businesswoman and visionary leader. Determined but intuitive while fulfilling those roles, she cares for her community as she continues her crusade.
Many exciting endeavors await my business partner. Drink a Seat, a blog that documents her extensive knowledge of food and drink, will become a wild success. She will complete a Master’s degree in Food Studies at NYU (yes, I said NYU!) where she will continue her research on Peruvian pisco, mezcal and beyond. Her sustainable distillery will revolutionize the way people think about liquor. She will change mentalities through education through her future podcast. Kami won’t stop until PiscoLogía is the best, most widely distributed pisco in the world. More importantly, she will care for the earth and its people while reaping its precious edible ingredients.
Kami’s past experiences gave her the tools to spearhead a path to success. As a young child, she used to spend numerous hours at her grandparents’ pharmacy in Northern Idaho. She passed the time by observing the business operations and playing with the cash register, punching random numbers to record imaginary sales. Her grandpa reproached her carelessness. Little did he know, his granddaughter was learning how to run a business and how to be accountable. Kami also experimented with food in her kitchen as an adolescent, learning to combine flavors, aromas and ingredients, information she would use in the future to become one of the best bartenders in the Northwest.
It was in the Portland community that she found her sense of belonging and the drive to learn more. She moved there at the age of 18, training under the best bartenders at her uncle’s bar, the Brazen Bean. Years later, the lessons learned from that apprenticeship led her to win a cocktail competition. The grand prize was a trip to Peru. Throughout all this, her past was the force behind her – observing her grandparents’ business, food experimentation, and mixing ingredients with liquor to create masterpieces.
In Peru, Nati and I recognized her talent, industry knowledge and intuition. Inviting her to become partner of PiscoLogía was the obvious choice. She built the concept that encapsulates our craft pisco brand now. But she didn’t stop there. She moved to Mexico to become a specialist in tequila and mezcal, now giving tours to inquisitive minds from around the globe. However, for Kami, these monumental steps are part of the process of achieving something even greater.
Kami’s path started with tiny punches of numbers, spitting out the register tape of life, imaginary scenarios that would one day play out in her career. Nati and I are fortunate to be this trajectory with her, our forces coming together to reach our final goal. Her innermost Matryoshka epitomizes perfection, but I see it growing rather than retreating. It’s grander than she thinks- a tremendous mass gaining momentum, advocating for change, lifting up others and building empires.
In Peru, it is difficult not to stumble upon something associated with José de San Martín. From streets to provinces to statues to schools, this man’s legacy is ubiquitous. Born in Argentina, José de San Martín was a military leader who fought to liberate Argentina, Chile and Peru. However, he was notable not only for his efforts to gain independence in South America. San Martín also fought to abolish slavery, advocated for indigenous people and enacted freedom of speech in Peru.
José de San Martín first liberated Argentina and Chile from royalist rule. He then traveled to Peru to do the same. His efforts were successful; Peru’s independence was declared on July 28th, 1821. To this day, Peruvians celebrate Independence Day with copious amounts of pisco. Now they can add PiscoLogía’s San Martín cocktail to their repertoire.
Peru’s national hero died in France at the age of 72, shortly after hearing the news of Argentina’s victory against the Anglo-French blockade. To note this historical fact, Kami added a French twist to this cocktail with Chartreuse and Dubbonet.
Created by the master Kami Kenna, we present the San Martín cocktail to you:
If you have ever heard of pisco, you have undoubtedly heard of Duncan Nicol, the inventor of the famous, yet surreptitious Pisco Punch cocktail. A Scottish immigrant who owned the Bank Exchange bar in San Francisco from 1887-1919, Mr. Nicol helped Peruvian pisco gain fame in the USA before Prohibition. San Francisco’s wealthiest used to flock to the Bank Exchange to quaff the limey pineapple cocktail made with Peruvian brandy. During the Gold Rush, ships carrying supplies for prospectors used to stop in Peru on their way to California. They left the port of Pisco brimming with bottles of liquor with the same name, their final destination: San Francisco.
The Volstead Act forced the Bank Exchange to close its doors in 1919 and Mr. Nicol died soon after, never revealing his recipe of the Pisco Punch (Pisco). To this day, bartenders across the globe craft their own personal interpretations, making it one of the most popular pisco cocktails.
But despite our love of this flavorful drink, the invention of the Pisco Punch isn’t our favorite part of the story. The Bank Exchange wasn’t avant-garde just because of its cocktails. Duncan Nicol had opened a female-only lounge there, creating the first public drinking space in the West for upper-class women (Difford). Without chaperones in this elegant bar, women were equal to men, a tiny symbol of progress in the movement for women’s rights. We like to envision many sophisticated ladies sipping on delicious pisco cocktails there, contemplating this feminist triumph.
This piece of historical information highlights the dichotomy of women and booze during that time period. It was a complicated time for females and liquor, as many women blamed the latter for domestic abuse and other malaise in society. Some crusaded against alcohol and led pro-prohibition campaigns, such as the Anti-Saloon League of America and Women’s Christian Temperance Union (Women). On the other hand, other women visited bars and were instrumental in repealing the 18th Amendment. As Madelon Powers notes in “Women and Public Drinking, 1890-1920”, many saloons before Prohibition had an entrance for women that was accessed from the side by “either wage-earners or the wives and daughters of wage-earners who resided in the crowded tenement districts of New York, Chicago and other urban centres during America’s industrialising era” (Powers). This proves that the upper-class women who frequented the Bank Exchange weren’t anomalies; women from working-class families also visited bars before Prohibition took effect.
Additionally, as mentioned before, some women fought to repeal the 18th Amendment, seeing that corruption, violence and clandestine drinking caused by Prohibition led to many societal woes. Organizations such as the Women’s Moderation Union, Molly Pitcher’s Club, and the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform were some of those groups (Women). In these examples, we can see the equivocal relationship between women and liquor on both sides of the spectrum. All these women strove to fix America’s drinking problem in one way or another. They also found their voices and mobilized to fight for their causes.
It is unfortunate that the first female-only lounge of the West was shut down shortly after its inauguration. We will never know what could have happened if Prohibition hadn’t taken place. Perhaps the feminist movement within the liquor world would have gained more momentum. Peruvian pisco might have become more popular across the entire USA because of Duncan Nicol’s Punch. What we do know is that our 3 PiscoLogía partners can fight to be leaders in this industry because of the actions of feminists in the past. So we will celebrate those small steps, tiny cogs in the wheel of progress, knowing that we will still have a long way to go.