Like many a great cultural icon, the origins of the pisco sour are awash in rumor and mystery.
The most popular story behind the birth of the National Drink of Peru involves an expat American, Victor V. Morris. In 1902 the railroad clerk (and former florist) packed up his bag, and left Utah for the remote, Andean city of Cerro de Pasco, where a fellow Utahn, industrialist A.W. McCune, was building a railroad to haul silver out of the mountains’ mines.
Morris found work with the railroad, and discovered the local liquor, pisco. The amber-colored brandy, which is made by distilling grape juice, was already hugely popular among the locals.
When the railroad was completed in July of 1904, the company tasked Morris with planning the celebration. Over 5,000 people came out to commemorate the momentous occasion, and Morris served them all whisky sours. Until he ran out of whisky. With the revelers not showing any sign of slowing down, the resourceful Mormon substituted pisco for whisky, the party continued and a legend was born. (There is some speculation that Morris may or may not have encountered a recipe for the pisco sour in a Peruvian Creole cookbook that was published in 1903. Of course, only Morris knows for sure, and he’s not talking.)
With the railroad complete, Morris descended from the Andes, and opened a bar in Lima, Morris’ Bar. The pisco sour was the bar’s signature drink, and quickly became the talk of the town.
Well, nothing succeeds like success, and it wasn’t long before Morris’ bartenders began opening or working at other establishments, when they offered their version of the pisco sour. One of these Morris’ Bar alumni was Mario Bruiget, who brought the drink to the Grand Hotel Maury. It was Bruiget who first added egg white to the pisco sour (what is now recognized as an essential ingredient), and thus it is he who is credited with creating the modern pisco sour.
There are other origin stories out there, and they all probably contain some element of truth, but regardless of how it came to be, the pisco sour is here to stay in Peru, where it is toasted the first Saturday of every February during Pisco Sour Day, a national holiday.
If you would like to taste an authentic pisco sour—on Pisco Sour Day, or any other day—please be sure to check out the discounted trips below.