Drinks,  Recipes

The Sacred Valley- A Pisco Cocktail

Sacred Valley Pisco Cocktail
Sacred Valley Pisco Cocktail

My husband and I recently spent nine days in Peru, our first time to that country and our first trip to South America. This visit marked our travels to our 6th continent (someday Antarctica, someday…).

We had a fantastic time exploring the Inca ruins of the Sacred Valley, including the incomparable Machu Picchu, and wandering the streets and markets of the colonial city of Cusco and the vibrant capital of Lima. We spent our time eating and drinking as much as possible of the best Peru has to offer; we ate ceviche, alpaca, and even tasted guinea pig. We had a 15-course Japanese-Peruvian fusion meal to rival the best Michelin starred restaurants in the world and a fragrant, life affirming, bowl of chicken soup at a market stall which cost about $2. And we drank Pisco, lots and lots of Pisco.

What is Pisco? Besides being claimed by both Peru and Chile as their national alcohol, it’s a grape-based, clear brandy. By itself, I can’t say I enjoy it very much, but in a cocktail? It’s perfect. Probably the most famous drink using Pisco is the Pisco Sour which incorporates some sort of citrus and an egg white, and when shaken, tops the drink with a foam. If the thought of a raw egg white in a drink makes you go Ewww you are not alone. Me too.

Fortunately for us, the “craft cocktail” craze has made its way to Peru and there were plenty of imaginative cocktails on restaurant menus to tempt us. One of my favorite drinks had Pisco, lemon syrup, fresh gooseberries, and fresh basil. I had one of those every day we were in Urubamba.

Along with that, I have another reason to celebrate. This blog had its 5th anniversary back in March and I somehow missed it! So, in honor of our trip to Peru and the 5th anniversary of FormerChef.com, I’ve created this cocktail. It combines the floral notes of the St. Germain, earthy notes from the basil, a bit of a bite and sweetness from the grapefruit syrup and some acidity for balance from the lime juice. And the Pisco, that’s what gives it its punch. Trust me. Be careful with this cocktail; it goes down really easy.

The Sacred Valley- A Pisco Cocktail

A Pisco cocktail inspired by Peru's Sacred Valley. Recipe for Grapefruit Syrup plus Basil, Lime, and St. Germain
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time10 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cocktails
Servings: 1 serving


For each Sacred Valley Cocktail:

  • 2 ounces Pisco
  • .75 ounces St. Germain
  • 1 ounce grapefruit syrup recipe below
  • .75 ounces fresh lime juice
  • 4-5 basil leaves torn
  • ice
  • lime wedges as basil tops for garnish

For the Grapefruit Syrup:

  • 3 each pink grapefruit
  • 2 cups sugar
  • note: the sugar should equal the amount of juice from the grapefruit, usually about 2 cups from the 3 grapefruit


  • If you are going to make the syrup, allow several days and see the notes below.

For the Sacred Valley Cocktail:

  • Fill a cocktail shaker about 3/4 full with ice and fill a rocks glass about 3/4 full with ice.
  • Add the Pisco, St. Germain, grapefruit syrup, lime juice and torn basil leaves to the cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for about 20 seconds.
  • Pour over ice and garnish with lime wedge and basil top.

For the syrup:

  • Peel the grapefruit with a vegetable peeler, trying to avoid the white pith as much as possible. Juice the peeled grapefruit, measure, and reserve the juice in the refrigerator until needed.
  • Roughly chop the peel and place in a medium sized bowl. Add the sugar (amount in cups equal to the reserved juice) to the peel and stir to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 24-48 hours until the sugar melts and absorbs the oils from the grapefruit peel. Stir every 12 hours.
  • After the peel has absorbed the sugar for 24-48 hours, mix in the juice. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for another 24-48 hours. Stir every 12 hours. Strain and refrigerate syrup until needed.


A note about the grapefruit syrup recipe; it's simple but it takes several days to make, time well spent. I got this recipe from my mother and made it, along with the more typical, but faster, version by cooking a sugar syrup with the peel. The version in the recipe blows the doors off the traditional one with it's deeper, more concentrated and less bitter flavor.
If you don't have the time or desire to make your own, you can certainly buy some grapefruit syrup or substitute simple syrup and grapefruit juice (though it won't taste exactly the same).
A Pisco cocktail inspired by the Sacred Valley
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  • Kate

    I just love it when you head off to some place new and bring back delectable tidbits for me!
    LOVE love love that you’re a ‘former’ chef, because otherwise you’d never have time for this!

    I live in the back of beyond, so I may have to track down the alcohols but I WILL be trying this this summer. 🙂
    I wonder, do brands make a significant difference? After looking online, I will have to special order, and may have to drive to Albuquerque to get it! Since we go there anyway, now & then, it won’t slow me down much.

    And thanks for the new syrup method. Sounds like a much better product than the boiling method.
    I’m just really happy that you came across my radar all those months (years?) ago! Thanks!!

    • formerchef

      Kate- I’m SO glad you enjoy my posts. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment and tell me so.

      I don’t know if brands make much of a difference, especially in a mixed drink. The Pisco is one we brought back from Peru and I don’t even know if it’s available in the US. When I go to buy more, I will look for one with a mid-range cost. When it comes to booze, I tend to shy away from the absolute cheapest.
      If you have to drive to Albuquerque anyway, you should be able to find a decent Liquor store there which carries both Pisco and St. Germain.

      • Kate

        I completely agree about the ‘cheap stuff’. It is never worth the $ saved.
        I’ve already found the brand, and several others.
        My only real problem will be REMEMBERING it the next time I’m in a city. 🙂

          • Kate

            Oh, I will! I was just reading about St. Germain. (I hesitated only briefly before revealing my ignorance :))
            Elderflowers. Imagine.
            I really enjoy using liqueurs in cocktails, but my experience is limited, and so is my access.
            It will be a fun scavenger hunt; and who knows what a local vendor might be able to order.

          • formerchef

            We bought the St. Germain to have here for a friend who likes it. A little goes a long way, but it works beautifully as a mixer in cocktails. I’m now a fan.

  • Suzanne Smith

    My husband has been traveling to Chile for work for more than 30 years, so I learned about pisco early in our relationship. We don’t go to as much effort as you, though – we just do pisco sours. Quite yummy. We bought pisco here, too, but I can’t recall where.

    • formerchef

      Suzanne- You can move beyond the Pisco Sour with little effort. Try mixing Pisco with fresh juices and a little ginger ale. In Peru they call that a “chiclada”. Very refreshing!

  • Kate

    I found the St. Germain, and you are SO right; it is yummy. And in the most gorgeous bottle!
    The only pisco I found was Pisco Porton. It is strong! not a sipper brandy.
    I’ll probably try your suggestion to use it in fresh juice w/ginger ale, while I’m making or tracking down the grapefruit syrup.
    Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Katie @ Dishin & Dishes

    I adore Peruvian food and here in Oklahoma City, we have several Peruvian restaurants. JUST tried my first Pisco Sour a few weeks back and loved it. The one I had had egg whites whipped into it for a frothy top. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Ricardo Ghibellini

    Hi @formerchef!

    Love your site, I was actually searching for this recipe. I had something very similar both in Italy and Perú a couple of times this summer. The places I went to they were calling it the “Don Alfredo”… but I couldn’t find a recipe for it until I stumbled upon your site. Fantastic! Thank you!

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