Brandy Reviews Reviews

Pisco Review: Barsol Primero Quebranta Pisco

Pisco has lingered as the “next big thing” in the American market for the past several years now, but it still has not achieved anything resembling breakthrough success. This unaged grape spirit from South America  — a type of brandy, although closer to grappa in character — is popular with many cocktail enthusiasts and bartenders, but little known among the general public.

By law, pisco must be made in either Chile or Peru, and it must conform to the established practices of those countries. The two vary somewhat with regards to the type of grapes that may be used and the distillation process — which country makes the “true” pisco is a matter of some debate — but the resulting spirit is not dissimilar.

Barsol Primero pisco is made in the Ica Valley of Peru, in one of the oldest distilleries in the Americas. It is crafted in small batches from 100% quebranta grapes, generally regarded as the strongest of all pisco grape varietals. It is pot distilled to bottle proof, with neither water nor any other ingredients added.

The resulting spirit is crystal clear and transparent, with a ripe, fruity aroma. There is no doubt that this is distilled from grapes — it smells not unlike wine, with bread/yeast elements as well. After it opens up for several minutes it starts to take on a slightly musty odor as well.

The taste is rough and rustic. This is, after all, an unaged spirit, and it shows. (Pisco does “rest” in stainless steel tanks for at least three months after distillation, but this does little to smooth out the sharp edges.) There is lots of rich, berry fruit, but very little sweetness. It is somewhat hot on the tongue, with a bitterness that reminds me of dark chocolate. The finish is medium-long and slightly astringent.

You probably wouldn’t drink this spirit neat, but it is recommended for cocktails, especially the classic Pisco Sour or Pisco Punch.

Barsol Pisco Primero

Recipes Rum Reviews

Cocktail Recipe: Pisco Sour

The Pisco Sour was created by an expat American named Victor V. Morris who traveled to Lima, Peru in the early-20th century to open a saloon. (Lima was something of a boom town in those days due to the mining industry.)

A variation on the Whiskey Sour, Morris supposedly first mixed his version using the native spirit on July 28, 1904. Of course, as with the Daiquiri, attributing the origination of a relatively simple cocktail to just one person at one particular time is problematic.

But if nothing else, Morris was a significant figure in the standardization and popularization of the Pisco Sour, and for that he certainly deserve praise.

Pisco Sour

Pisco Sour


  • 2 oz. Pisco
  • 1 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
  • 3/4 oz. Simple Syrup
  • 1 Fresh Egg White
  • Lime Wheel, for garnish
  • Angostura Bitters, for garnish


  1. Dry shake ingredients without ice first, then add ice and shake again. Strain into a highball glass. Garnish with a lime wheel and a few drops of Angostura bitters. If desired, some fresh nutmeg can be grated on top.

Gifts Liqueurs Spirits

Professor Cocktail’s Holiday Gift Guide: Other Spirits

This week we're running our holiday gift guide, with suggestions for spirits in different categories. So far we've offered our rum recommendationsbourbon recommendations and gin recommendations. We're closing the week with other spirits.

Professor Cocktail's Holiday Gift Guide: Other Spirits

Here is a variety of suggestions for booze that didn't fit into the other categories, but would make great gifts.

Grand marnier cherryGrand Marnier Natural Cherry ($40)

A limited edition flavor from the masters of orange liqueur. One of the most delicious cherry liqueurs you'll find. Buy some before it disappears from shelves. (The regular Grand Marnier always makes a great gift as well.)

Tequila avionAvión Silver ($40)

My favorite tequila, and the winner of our Tequila Taste Test. Makes brilliant cocktails or can be savored on its own.

Karlsson's Gold VodkaKarlsson's Gold Vodka ($30)

Vodka with flavor and nuance? Who'da thunk it! Made from seven different kinds of potatoes, this is primo stuff. Leave the Grey Goose on the shelf and give this instead.

Pisco portonPisco Portón ($35)

Pisco, the brandy of South America, is a spirit on the rise, and Portón is the best one I've tasted. Would make a great gift for the drinker who likes to try new things.

Carpano anticaCarpano Antica Sweet Vermouth ($27, 1L)

The champion of all sweet vermouths. Makes delicious cocktails, including perhaps the best Manhattan. It's pricey, so a lot of people wouldn't buy it for themselves. That's why it makes a great gift.

We've included links for each suggestion to K&L Wines (where available). K&L is a great spirits store, with impeccable service and a sterling reputation. You can order from them with confidence. Send them an email to see if they ship to your state. (Note: We're not being compensated for these links.)