Pisco Sours & Fiestas Patrias
How to celebrate and drink like a (vegan) Peruvian.
¡Hola! This month’s newsletter is about my recipe for a vegan Pisco Sour cocktail, and a story about Fiestas Patrias, Peruvian Independence Day.
Pisco is Peru’s grape brandy, and the Pisco Sour—a frothy cocktail of pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, and egg whites—is the National Drink. It has its own day, Dia del Pisco Sour, on the first Saturday in February. But it’s popular year-round, specially during Fiestas Patrias on July 28.
Vegan Pisco Sour
The Pisco Sour was my first cocktail, by accident, at age 10. So, it’s been a sentimental favorite for decades. To make it vegan, I used a popular plant-based ingredient: aquafaba, the water from unsalted canned chickpeas. Its foaming properties make it an ideal replacement for egg whites.
Making Pisco Sours is a family tradition. In 1940’s Lima, my grandfather whipped egg whites with sugar in a bowl before adding pisco and lime juice, then served it at my mother’s quinceañera. And in the 1970’s, my father used a tall blender to make a large Pisco Sour pitcher for family reunions.
At home today, I also like to use a blender, it crushes the ice and makes a thick aquafaba foam. The key is the volume of the ice cubes that chill, dilute, and balance the drink. So, I make 2 servings in a blender and use 2 ice cubes, each with a water volume of about 1 liquid ounce.
I hope you enjoy making my Vegan Pisco Sour recipe. ¡Salud!
For further reading, here’s some yapa ( “a little something extra,” in Quechua): my New Worlder article on the Pisco Sour’s origin story.
2021 is the bicentennial of Peru’s independence from Spain, and a story in Ricardo Palma’s Tradiciones Peruanas (Peruvian Traditions, 1872) describes the strategy that General José de San Martín used to gain Peru’s independence without going into battle. He used a cooking pot.
The story Con Dias y Ollas Venceremos (With Days and Pots We’ll Win) is one of Palma’s anecdotes about creole life in colonial-era Lima. In my piece The Origin of Lima's Creole Street Food for W Journal, I reference Palma’s story which also documents the daily routine of street food vendors.
The story explains how San Martín, El Libertador, recruited a potter to craft a custom clay pot with a false bottom for hiding and transporting secret messages to his revolutionary army, thus evading Spanish colonists. The strategy worked, and Peru won it’s independence on July 28, 1821.
As they say in Peru, “¡Feliz 28!”
Music is an integral part of Peru’s creole culture, and I cook with music to infuse a rhythmic soulfulness into my dishes. Growing up, there was always food, music, and dancing at family celebrations; and my mother and I cooked together listening to Peru’s musica criolla (creole music).
Palma’s story inspired the lyrics for the creole waltz Viva el Perú y Sereno by Alicia Maguiña, who sings about a day in the life of Lima’s street vendors:
Cookbooks I Am Reading
Over my years of travels to Peru, I’ve built a home library of Peruvian cookbooks. But now that I am vegan, I’ve been adding vegan and plant-based cookbooks too. I love books—physical books—and I don’t think I’ll move to a digital library like I did with my music collection.
I enjoy reading cookbooks first, to get a sense of the author’s culinary rhythm. And then I pick recipes to cook for my family. Here are some cookbooks I’ve enjoyed reading, cooking, and learning from:
I Can Cook Vegan, Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Vegetable Kingdom, Bryant Terry
Mississippi Vegan, Timothy Pakron
Food52 published my story about tacu tacu: Three Generations of Father’s, One Timeless Afro-Peruvian Breakfast, with the rice and lentil cake recipe.
TASTE published my conversation with Sean Sherman: Indigenous Cuisine Tells the Story of Connected Continents. We are planning a collaborative meal that brings together the foods of our Indigenous cultures. Stay tuned.
The Plant Based Planet e-cookbook features recipes by 150 contributors representing 110 countries, and includes my quinoa dessert pudding.
I am thrilled to have developed some Peruvian-themed recipes for Joe Yonan’s new cookbook, Mastering the Art of Plant-Based Cooking.