Making pisco sours at my family’s celebrations has been a tradition across three generations. My grandfather prepared it for my mother’s quinceañera in the 1940s; my father made it for dinner parties, and I experimented with modern variations. The classic recipe calls for pisco, lime juice, sugar, and egg whites. But after turning vegan, I would have to give up my favorite cocktail unless I could find a replacement for the egg whites.
Over 100 years ago, American Victor Morris served the pisco sour to the city’s bohemians at his bar in Lima. Now, on the first Saturday in February—National Pisco Sour Day—barkeeps around the world combine the ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake vigorously to create a foam, and strain into a glass. The egg whites are critical for the foam and garnishing the cocktail with aromatic bitters helps hide the raw egg smell.
My grandfather prepared pisco sours in a bowl. First, he whisked the egg whites, then added sugar, lime juice, and pisco. My father is an engineer, and to make a large batch at once he used a tall electric blender. In Peru, barkeeps infuse pisco with various herbs or spices to make macerados. Once, I infused pisco with nori (seaweed paper) to make a Nikkei version that paid homage to Japanese-Peruvian culture. But these all used egg whites.
To make a vegan pisco sour, I had to find a replacement for egg whites. First, I tried Ms. Better’s Bitters Miraculous Foamer—a plant-based liquid that comes in a bottle with a glass dropper. It worked well, but it’s not readily available. Then, I read that bakers use aquafaba to replace egg whites in meringues and pastries. Aquafaba is the liquid in a can of unsalted garbanzos (chickpeas) with foaming properties similar to egg whites.
I used aquafaba to make a vegan pisco sour, and I was surprised at how well it worked. I found that using my home kitchen’s electric blender produces a good foam and crushes the ice. When selecting the pisco, I look for a Quebranta grape varietal or Acholado blend. They will hold up better to the citrus. If you don’t have aromatic bitters, garnish the cocktail like Grandfather or Dad did, with a sprinkle of cinnamon powder.
The Pisco Sour has been a constant in my life since I first quaffed it decades ago. It’s the one cocktail that I enjoy making the most for friends and family. It represent Peru, and the pride we have in our history and culture. So today, I am delighted that as a vegan I don’t have to give up my favorite cocktail—I can still preserve my family’s tradition and celebrate National Pisco Sour Day with the rest of the world.
Makes 2 cocktails
Combine the pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, aquafaba, and ice cubes in a tall kitchen blender. Blend on high for 30 seconds to make a thick foam and crush the ice. Divide evenly into two glasses. Garnish each drink with three drops of aromatic bitters or with a sprinkle of cinnamon powder.
*To make the simple syrup, combine 1 cup sugar with 1 cup water in a saucepan over medium heat, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and stir to dissolve the sugar. Pour the simple syrup into a mason jar and let cool to room temperature before using.