Every January, the Peruvian pisco cocktail is celebrated with passion in major Peruvian cities. Here are the best places to drink a chilcano and an easy-to-follow recipe.
The origin of the chilcano, a Peruvian pisco cocktail, is quite uncertain though it has often been assigned an Italian heritage. When Italian immigrants arrived to Peru between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, some believe that they simply swapped the grappa (a brandy made of the seeds, skins and pulp of grapes) used in their beloved buon giorno drink for the Peruvian spirit, pisco. Over the years various other theories have been thrown around, but the most important search in contemporary times is discovering the best places to drink a chilcano.
A humble drink in comparison to the frothy pisco sour, the no-fuss and refreshing qualities of a chilcano are recognized not only on the official day of the chilcano (landing on January 11 this year) but the weeks that precede and follow as well. Of course, it’s a drink worth having any day of the year.
Peruse this list of the best places to drink a chilcano in Peru, or scroll to the bottom for the recipe to give it a try yourself.
This classic watering hole is one of our top 13 places to visit in Barranco. Open since 1915, Bar Piselli is authentic as it gets, so don’t expect any umbrellas in your cocktails here. Pull up a wooden chair to one of the many small tables inside and order yourself a chilcano, and then another. Just blocks from the second best restaurant in Latin America (Central), this is perhaps one of the cheapest places to enjoy a quality chilcano in a pleasant atmosphere.
Address: Jr. 28 de Julio, Barranco (Lima)
Antigua Taberna Quierolo
Attached to a pisco distillery in the charming Pueblo Libre district, this tavern has been around since 1870. Thankfully, little has changed over the last 150 years as far as decoration and devotion to pisco. Go with a group and order a res to be served all the chilcano ingredients, ready to be assembled: a bottle of pisco, ginger ale, limón wedges and ice. Afterwards you can soak up the alcohol with a tasty butifarra sandwich (just be warned you’ll be left craving that seasoned ham and sweet potato sandwich for weeks after).
Address: Av. San Marin 1090, Pueblo Libre (Lima)
Raise a glass to Gastón Acurio at one of his latest ventures, El Bodegón. Rustic, cozy and very Peruvian, a second location has opened up in the district of Pueblo Libre since our review of the original locale in Miraflores. This is where hungry travelers can feast on classic dishes and dabble in pisco cocktails. The house chilcano, Pisco Bodegón, tosses muña (an Andean mint) as well as a few select fruits (orange, tumbo and granadilla) into the classic mix for a refreshing twist. Do some bar hopping in Pueblo Libre and precede your trip to Quierolo with a visit to the second Bodegón locale, housed in an old casona.
Address: Antonio Polo 886, Pueblo Libre, Lima
If you came to the culinary capital of Latin America, you may be looking to enjoy your pisco cocktail with a meal, rather than a simple bar snack. An unexpected find in the often overlooked district of Surquillo, La Picanteria makes guests feel like they’ve stumbled upon a secret spot—no matter how many times they’ve been back. Feel yourself gravitate towards the turquoise wall that plays backdrop to the bar and pull up a seat. These stools should come with seat belts, as you’ll soon find out when ordering the bottomless half-liter chilcano.
Address: Francisco Moreno 338, Suquillo, Lima
Calle del Medio
Skip dessert and finish up a meal of classic Peruvian comfort food with an ice-cold chilcano. Calle del Medio is a favorite among locals and tourists alike, serving up a variety of pisco cocktails prepared with exotic fruits, herbs, spices and local native roots. Not to mention, the open view of Cusco’s main square is priceless and the party vibe at night is ever present.
Address: Calle del Medio 113, Plaza de Armas, Cusco
Museo del Pisco
With locations in Lima, Cusco and Arequipa, Museo del Pisco aims to spread the knowledge and history of Peruvian pisco with each cocktail served. We’re particularly fond of the Arequipa (a top destination to visit in 2020) location as it tucked just behind the White City’s main square. And design nerds will get a special joy from the high ceilings that show off the walls of sillar (white volcanic stone). This is perhaps the best way to reward yourself after hiking through Colca Canyon. Didn’t make it to Colca yet? With enough pisco you just may convince yourself to do so.
Address: Calle Santa Catalina 200, Arequipa
Museo Café Bar
Owned by the antique toy museum located upstairs (Museo del Juguete, a fascinating and slightly creepy worthy of a visit), this bar is an extension of the same personality. Wood-paneled walls, eclectic furniture from another era, and a great cocktail menu (including chilcanos) make this place a whimsical end to the day in the city of eternal spring—especially if live jazz musicians make one of their frequent stops.
Address: Centro Cívico, Jirón Independencia 701, Trujillo
Part of the beauty of a chilcano is its simplicity. Go ahead and give your bar skills a try—better yet, enjoy a res with friends by simply laying the ingredients out on your table and suggesting the following measurements:
2 oz. Pisco
4 oz. ginger ale
1/2 oz. limón juice (or lime)
In a chilled (typically highball) glass filled with ice, add pisco, limón juice then ginger ale. Yes, it’s that easy.
Tips: Use a bottle of ginger ale that has been refrigerated to slow down melting of ice. If you are a real ginger fiend, infuse your pisco with slices of ginger a few days (or weeks) before.
Cover photo: Marco Simola/Living in Peru