Rice-a-Roni may lay claim to being that San Francisco treat, but I have to tell you the original San Francisco treat is a Pisco Punch, and I am not pulling any punches when I say that. It was created by Duncan Nicol at the Bank Exchange Bar in San Francisco during the Gold Rush era. The last time I whipped one up I used Peruvian Pisco, but this time around I get to make it with a Chilean Pisco, Kappa Pisco.

Let me explain a few of the things I just said. In the first place ,Pisco is a strong, colorless grape brandy produced in Peru and Chile. It was developed by Spanish settlers in the 16th century as a cheaper alternative to orujo, a brandy that was imported from Spain. Kappa Pisco is distilled from Pink Muscat and Alexandria Muscat and is double distilled in alembic stills with discontinued cycles using fresh water from the Andes Mountains. It is available as an un-aged white spirit or as a brown, aged reserve spirit. All of this magic is enhanced by the fact that Kappa Pisco is distilled in Chile’s Elqui Valley, which in 1982 was discovered by satellite to be the magnetic center of the world. Please, cue the Twilight Zone theme music now.

So why did Pisco become such a huge hit in San Francisco at the turn of the century? Simple economics actually; it was cheaper to ship Pisco up the coast from Chile and Peru than it was to haul whiskey overland from the East coast. Besides, San Francisco was a seafarer’s city and those sailors got used to drinking fortified wine on their ships and naturally transplanted that habit to shore.


Kappa Pisco comes in a designer bottle actually designed by renowned designer Ora-Ito. It is three sided and flat black on the corners with transparent face panels and is a real eye catcher. This Pisco is the clear un-aged variety. The nose is earthy like damp moss early in the morning accented by hints of citrus and flowers and very, very faintly resembles the aromas of gin. Behind all that there is the tingle of alcohol. There’s a lot going on there. The flowers break forward on the palate followed by muddled menthol and a hint of grape accents throughout it all. The spirit is warm and friendly and the alcohol high notes provide a back end accent that works nicely. The finish is a tingle of pepper and thick oils that lasts quite a while. It is definitely in a world all its own taste wise but a world worth visiting frequently.

On the rocks, it mellows a bit but still holds tight all those mysteriously wonderful flavors. Of course in a Pisco punch, it simply shines brightly. This is absolutely one of my most favorite mixed drinks and a perfect summer thirst quencher. All it takes is a little simple syrup some pineapple juice, a bit of lime juice and some ice and Pisco and you’re ready to go. Try it; I guarantee you will like it.

Kappa Pisco is ABV (alcohol by volume) 42.5% which works out to be 85 proof and a 750 ml bottle will set you back about $34.00, which places it price wise in the super premium category, which just happens to be where it belongs.

By George Brozowski

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