Both Peruvian pisco & Chilean brandy are distillates made from grapes, but their flavors and aromas are not similar. This means they should be treated very differently when mixing in cocktails.
Peruvian pisco and Chilean brandy have very distinctive aromas and flavors because their production processes are different. The single distillation method of Peruvian pisco concentrates the characteristics of each grape variety, whereas the double or triple distillation of Chilean brandy masks the original flavor and aroma of the grapes. This makes Chilean brandy a more neutral spirit that is more easily altered during the aging process.
When aged, Chilean brandy picks up butterscotch and vanilla nuances from the barrels. On the other hand, Peruvian pisco sits in neutral casks, so the grapes’ flavors and aromas maintain their original identity.
The ingredients of your cocktail should match the type of pisco and the grape variety you are working with. For example, the citrus flavors of a Quebranta pisco pair beautifully with the gingery lime tang of a chilcano. Or, the green olive hints of an Uvina pisco make the perfect match with the ingredients of a martini. You wouldn’t want hints of vanilla and butterscotch in a martini, but those flavors of Chilean brandy would work well in a Sidecar or Brandy Smash.
A conscientious bartender recognizes that Chilean brandy and Peruvian pisco should not be interchanged in cocktails. As a discerning consumer, you can challenge the notion that Peruvian pisco and Chilean brandy are substitutable. Drinking a cocktail with ingredients that complement the flavors and aromas of the South American brandy of your choice will maximize your pisco-drinking experience.