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.
A Pisco cocktail inspired by Peru's Sacred Valley. Recipe for Grapefruit Syrup plus Basil, Lime, and St. Germain
For each Sacred Valley Cocktail:
1ouncegrapefruit syruprecipe below
.75ouncesfresh lime juice
lime wedges as basil tops for garnish
For the Grapefruit Syrup:
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).