A Peruvian and a Chilean walk into a bar.
The Chilean asks for a “pisco sour.”
With drink in hand, he remarks to the Peruvian, “you can thank me for this drink. An invention of the best country of Latin America, Chile.”
The Peruvian, enraged with fume exiting his ears, pounds his hand on the table and snaps back “what did you say, pendejo?!”
The Chilean stands up and points his finger at the Peruvian, “you hear me! We Chileans invented Pisco Sour!”
And, right before fists start flying, the bartender, who happens to be from the US, yells out “Wait! Wait! What are you two fighting about?!”
The Chilean and Peruvian stop for a second looking confused at the bartender.
To which the American goes on proclaiming “neither of you invented the drink. We Americans did!”
The American is shortly sound “having suicided” with 9 bullets in the back of his head.
The South American Disagreement: Who Invented Pisco?
In Latin America, you’ll notice various disagreements between people of various countries.
Who make arepas better – Colombia or Venezuela?
What area makes better reggaeton music? The Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico?
Which Latin American country has hotter and easier women?
OK, that last one is more typically discussed among gringo sex tourists…
Regardless, disagreements all around about various things!
One of those differences being who invented pisco.
For those who don’t know, pisco sour is basically this type of light alcoholic drink you’ll find in some countries in South America.
When I first had pisco sour, it was in Chile while trekking the W Trek to see Torres del Paine.
In fact, I’m pretty the first time I ever had it was in this building specifically because I remember the experience well.
In the moment, I assumed it must’ve been a Chilean drink because I never had it before and Chile was the first place I tried it.
It was only some months ago where a reader of mine in the comment section of one of my articles mentioned how Chileans claim that they invented pisco when it really the Peruvians.
Therefore, there exists this disagreement that I never knew actually existed.
Now, not being a South American, I obviously don’t have any emotional investment into the argument.
But, after doing some minor research on the topic, I do now.
Because both the Chileans and Peruvians are wrong.
Neither of them invented Pisco Sour.
It was the Americans!
The people of my great country!
USA! USA! USA!
And I’m serious.
I’ve done my homework and got the proof.
As always, it’s us Americans who bless the world with our holy presence and amazing contributions.
*puts on sunglasses during the middle of the night*
But, before we get to the proof of the American contribution, let’s look into the history of pisco as it is different from pisco sour technically from my novice understanding.
The Original History of Pisco: Chileans or Peruvians?
Let’s start by looking at both sides of the argument regarding who invented pisco first.
First, you have the argument by Chileans that pisco originates from a small town that is within Chilean territory known as Pisco Elqui as you can read here.
And the Chileans claim that a tribal civilization known as the Aymaras were the ones to make pisco in this town known as Pisco Elqui as you can see here.
However, the name of the town was not always “Pisco Elqui” and was actually known as Le Greda and La Union afterwards. It wasn’t until February 1936 that the name was changed to Pisco Elqui.
So, in short, I find this claim by the Chileans to not be very credible.
Next, we have the Peruvian argument.
First, you have the fact that, as this source here says, you have numerous places in Peru that have been named with the word “pisco” going back centuries.
“For the Peruvians, one only needs to look at the oldest use of the word ‘pisco’ and the multiple applications of the same term – ‘a bird’, ‘a valley’, ‘a river’, a part, a type of liquor, a vessel – to support its historical underpinnings. Before the creation of the liquor, pisco was already the name of a valley, river and a port in Peru, which is why it’s often said to be Peruvian. Originally referred to as a ‘bird’ in ancient Quechua, the word was used all along the Pacific coast as it was believed that this particular bird inhabited certain areas of the Inca state, including the Valley of Prisnous, later referred to by the Spanish as Pisco.”
Let me summarize the main points that seem to be most important here.
So, Spain obviously colonized much of the Americas and they had a region known as the Viceroyalty of Peru that was quite suitable for grape vines.
In 1560, Peru was growing wine for commerce.
However, the wine industry in area was so successful that Spain banned making any new vineyards in 1595 due to the threat it posed to Spanish mercantilists and their exports.
At any rate, that policy was ignored and Spain tried harder to stop the spread of Peruvian wine production by banning its exportation to Panama and Guatemala.
Still, wine and alcohol production continued.
In 1572, a Peruvian town known as Santa Maria Magdalena had a port known as Pisco that was important for exporting a type of alcohol known as aguardiente.
As a interesting side note, you also had a grape liquor that originated in the same area known as pisco.
Anyway, perhaps in response to the pressures from Spain and maybe other causes, you had people distilling wine into pisco at around the 17th century.
And, soon enough, pisco consumption started to become popular in certain nearby areas like Potosi in what is now known as Bolivia. Potosi was actually a very important city for Spanish colonial times and I visited the city once as you can read about here.
From there, pisco went up and up as pisco production dwarfed wine production in Peru in 1764.
In the decades that followed, it gained even more popularity in Europe, the US and elsewhere.
In short, there’s various reasons to support the idea that pisco is Peruvian and not Chilean.
At any rate, that’s all just a very brief summary and, if you happen to read in Spanish and want a much more detailed history of pisco in Peru, then check out this other source I came across here.
So which is it?
Is pisco Peruvian or Chilean?
Well, I’m not an expert on the history but, based on my brief 30 minutes of armchair research, it looks like it was made in Peru.
And, while the Peruvians have their contribution with pisco, I have to say the cooler invention – pisco sour – was clearly American.
Let me explain why as I listen to Jimmy Hendrix do the Star Spangled Banner.
America Invented Pisco Sour?
As you can see in this source here, apparently it was made in Peru but by an American.
“Although the preparation of pisco-based mixed beverages possibly dates back to the 1700s, historians and drink experts agree that the cocktail as it is known today was invented in the early 1920s in Lima, the capital of Peru, by the American bartender Victor Vaughen Morris. Morris left the United States in 1903 to work in Cerro de Pasco, a city in central Peru. In 1916, he opened Morris' Bar in Lima, and his saloon quickly became a popular spot for the Peruvian upper class and English-speaking foreigners. The oldest known mentions of the pisco sour are found in newspaper and magazine advertisements, dating to the early 1920s, for Morris and his bar published in Peru and Chile. The pisco sour underwent several changes until Mario Bruiget, a Peruvian bartender working at Morris' Bar, created the modern Peruvian recipe of the cocktail in the latter part of the 1920s by adding Angostura bitters and egg whites to the mix.”
Here’s an interesting video on our amazing patriot, Victor.
Now, to be fair, there’s an argument to be made that the Pisco Sour was invented at least 17 years before Victor popularized it as you can see in this article here.
The argument being that there is a cookbook from 1903 known as the Nuevo Manuel de Cocina a la Criolla where a recipe for something simply titled “cocktail” has ingredients very similar to what is a Pisco Sour.
In fact, the only differences seem to be the following:
“It has all the ingredients with the exception of the Angostura bitters and perhaps ice. Also, it uses fine sugar instead of simple syrup. And, in the style of the book, it has no specific measurements, rather it’s made to-taste. Despite the obvious similarities it’s interesting that this cocktail is not yet called the Pisco Sour.”
Of course, there’s some arguments to be made still in favor of the Americans inventing the Pisco Sour.
First, you only have a screenshot of this cookbook that you can see here and supposedly no other supporting documents verify that this drink was around beforehand.
Second, even if it was around, from my novice understanding, it was still Victor that brought up the name “Pisco Sour” as he likely was inspired by the other cocktails with similar names like Whiskey Sour, Silver Sour, etc.
You got to have the name to invent it, you know. And this cookbook only calls it a “cocktail” with no cool name associated with it. How lame. As you see, we Americans at least invented the name which it clearly important to market the drink and help make it even more popular than it what it would’ve been otherwise.
Third, the drink from the 1903 cookbook is still technically different from the drink that was popularized by that American dude. After all, it’s missing the bitters, ice and it uses fine sugar instead of simple syrup!
How could you call that a Pisco Sour without bitters and simple syrup.
That is an INSULT to the Pisco Sour Community!
Fourth, based on my 30 minutes of research, we don’t even know who put that recipe in that cookbook. For all we know, it could’ve been an American who contributed the cocktail to the writer of the cookbook. In fact, it was published in 1903, right?
And remember when Victor showed up to Peru from that previous source?
“Morris left the United States in 1903 to work in Cerro de Pasco, a city in central Peru.”
While it’s possible that Victor didn’t invent the drink in his first year in Peru, you know anything is possible and we don’t have any evidence anyhow that it was a Peruvian who put the recipe for the cocktail in there.
Could’ve been anyone of any nationality and, as we know, the guy who eventually popularized it was an American anyhow.
Fifth, you even have Peruvians who believe in the idea! Like 10 of them based on what I can see in these videos.
"Como bien dijo Gonzalo . Victor Morris Lo creó, el Maury lo perfeccionó y el Bolivar lo popularizó"
If even Peruvians believe it, then it must be true.
Finally, as we all know, American could mean anyone born in the Americas from North America to South America.
If Latin Americans want to believe that, then they can’t get angry if I say that Pisco Sour was invented by an American.
Even if it was invented by a Peruvian in 1903, that Peruvian, by their logic, is TECHNICALLY an American.
Therefore, America invented the Pisco Sour even if the person involved was or was not necessarily born in the US.
But, based on the 30 minutes of armchair research, it looks like the American in question might’ve been from the US.
Wrapping it Up
Either way, to summarize all of this, Pisco was obviously invented by the Peruvians and not the Chileans.
But Pisco Sour was definitely invented in Peru but the nationality of the inventor is still up in air (though invented by an American if we use a broad definition of that word).
That’s all I got to say anyhow.
Either way, definitely a good drink regardless of who invented it.
As I said, I got no real emotional involvement in this argument as I’m not Peruvian or Chilean.
If I ever get Chilean citizenship someday, I’m sure I’ll edit this article with the best sources I can to credit the Chileans.
That’ll be my trade to the Chileans – give me citizenship and I’ll dedicate 5 hours a week promoting material that says you invented Pisco.
Until then, I’m Team America and will stand by the claim that America invented Pisco Sour.
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Thanks for reading.
PS: The source for the image used at the top of this article can be credited here. I did not take the photo nor do I own it.