My sister lived in Bolivia for a time, and she used to rave about the Pisco Sours she enjoyed there, even if they’re more closely associated with neighboring Chile and Peru. When I went to visit I tried the cocktail, and it didn’t really take — but I gave it a second chance a couple of weeks ago, at San Francisco’s La Mar restaurant, and now I’m sold. The Pisco (Peruvian brandy), lime juice, simple syrup, bitters, and egg white froth all came together in a not-too-tart, not-too-sweet form of poetry.
I realize this makes me sound a little bit Ugly American – like the kind of person who wishes aloud that the food in China tasted more like Panda Express. But La Mar is no Panda Express. Following that pitch-perfect cocktail, my friends and I enjoyed traditional Peruvian causas and ceviches and a bottle of 2007 Kingston Cariblanco Sauvignon Blanc from Chile’s coastal Casablanca Valley — and the gushing never ceased.
With South America on the brain, a few days later, Peter and I opened a bottle of 2008 Carmenere from Casa Silva winery, located in Chile’s Colchagua Valley. Although I wouldn’t call it pitch-perfect, I thoroughly enjoyed its blackberry aroma and bold, tannic mouthfeel. Not food-friendly, but a nice, inexpensive ($12 a bottle) wine to drink on its own in the wintry months. I looked for Casa Silva’s wines in the Guía de Vinos de Chile, the country’s much-revered annual wine guide, and found that the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc actually earned a top-ten spot in the by-varietal category, as did the winery’s higher-end Gran Reserva Carmenere.
But back to that Pisco Sour. Something else was happening the night I sipped my new favorite cocktail in La Mar’s spacious bar: the San Francisco Giants were about to beat the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 4 of the National League Championship. Me then: sighing heavily, my back to the TV screen, as my companions insisted that we wait and see the final outcome instead of moving to our table when the game was tied 5-5 in the 9th inning. (Who was that woman?? Can Pisco Sours really change a person that much?) Cut to me last night: glued to the couch for the third straight night until I had to join the rest of the Bay Area in the collective screaming frenzy that came after the strike that won the Series.
Another fine argument for giving things a second chance.