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Cover: Shaken and stirred

17Jul 12

Chilcano, a Peruvian classic with a story

Chilcano, cocktailDuring the last decade, I have visited Peru various times. Lima, the capital, is a fascinating place. There are colourful street markets everywhere you go, and people are always friendly and ready for a drink and/or a chat.

On one of my latest trips, I met a chap by the name of Jaime Pesaque, who happens to own a restaurant in town. After dinner at his place one evening, he offered to mix me a drink he reckoned I had never tried before. The name of the drink was, as I recall, chilcano. At the time it seemed an odd name because it is also the name of a famous dish in Peru. Today, I want to tell you about this drink.

The chilcano is a traditional Peruvian beverage. Its main ingredient is Pisco, which is the country´s national drink. Pisco is a colourless or yellowish-to-amber coloured grape brandy produced in wine-making regions of Peru and Chile. It was developed by Spanish settlers in the 16th century as an alternative to orujo, a pomace brandy that was being imported from Spain.

The story of the drink dates back to the 1930´s, when Italian immigrants introduced a drink called “Buon Giorno” into the country. The cocktail was made by mixing grappa with ginger ale and a slice of lemon. Once the drink became popular, the locals started adding Pisco into the mix instead of the grappa. Word spread rapidly, and Peruvians finally had an alternative to the traditional pisco sour.

The chilcano is a strangely invigorating drink, and is in this way similar to the hot fish soup with the same name. It has an agile and refreshing taste, a bit like a margarita lemonade. It is a very simple drink to mix, and a great option for a summer evening.


  • 6cl Pisco
  • 12cl ginger ale
  • Half a lime

How it’s made:
1. Fill an 8 ounce tumbler with ice cubes.
2. Pour the pisco over the ice.
3. Squeeze the lime juice into the glass.

Time: 3 minutes
Makes: 1 serving

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  1. I love anything with pisco. Such a unique flavour!

  2. I know! It´s a shame it´s a bit hard to get my hands on.


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