Pisco is doing all the right things to stake out a presence in a city with an abundance of focused cocktail bars. The use of fresh ingredients, house-made mixers and an area of specialization—in this case, the use of pisco, a grape brandy ranging in strength from 60 to 86 proof — make it worthy of your happy hour to-do list. The rest of the U.S. is still catching on to the South American liquor that San Franciscans, thanks to Gold Rush-era Chilean and Peruvian immigrants, have been tipping back since the 1850s. Inside Pisco, situated next to Destino, a Latin bistro under the same ownership, you will find a knowledgeable staff pouring drinks in a sleek, modern space, with bar manager Enrique Ferres steering the ship.
Pisco, 1817 Market St., (415) 874-9951, www.piscosf.com
Tell me about pisco. Pisco is a white grape brandy, kind of like Italian grappa. There is a long-standing dispute over who created it, Chile or Peru. It gets heated when discussing who invented the pisco sour — these countries are like brothers who fight.
Your pisco selection is pretty extensive. How many are on the menu? We have over 50 — definitely the biggest selection in The City, maybe in California. All but one pisco are Peruvian.
The chicha sour isn’t on your cocktail list, but it’s always available. Why do you like it? It’s like a pisco sour, but we use a chicha morada that our chefs make here. The color is from purple corn, and it’s also made with cinnamon, pineapple, lime, blood orange, apple, cloves and sugar. It’s blended and simmered — all very time-consuming. The recipe has been in the owner’s family for a long time. People usually drink it as a nonalcholic punch, but here it is also a unique mixer.
Who creates the drinks? It’s a very democratic bar, so all of the bartenders create them. We play with the menu a lot to try to get the best drinks on the list. Sometimes we’re a little too anarchist, but the results are good.
Where are you from? I am originally from Uruguay — I think my brother and I are the only Uruguayans in The City, I’m not kidding. I lived in Brazil for four years before moving to Miami and finally to S.F. Here, I like what I do and I can be proud. It’s a realistic city; you see real things so you don’t forget that you are fortunate. Horacio, my brother, is doing well too. He sings for New Diplomat, a band here in S.F. I don’t sing; I’m the soccer player. When we were kids, riding around in a car singing, they would tell me, “Shhh, let your brother sing.”
Shake vigorously, strain and garnish foam with aromatic bitters.