Pisco & Ají Amarillo

The booming Peruvian cuisine is rooted in its peppers and Pisco!

Aji Amarillo – or the spicy yellow pepper from Peru – is a key ingredient to some of the most classic dishes of Peruvian gastronomy. For example, it can be found in ceviches or spicy salads. You could prepare a tiradito from Aji Amarillo or make Papa a la Huancaina (potatoes with cheese sauce). It is also in Aji de Gallina or chicken stews, often made with nuts, parmesan, milk, and, of course, Aji Amarillo. Lastly, Aji Amarillo is key to Lomo Saltado, and many Picantes de Mariscos or Seafood stews, much like Jambalayas or Spanish Seafood  Paellas. It is incredibly versatile because it is not spicy hot, with rather more of a fruity taste, so even children can enjoy it – in small bits. Some spicier peppers famous in Peru are the Rocoto, Aji Limo and Panca. Panca is the key ingredient used to make Anticuchos sauce, an appetizer that celebrity chef Nobu includes in his restaurants.

 

As for Pisco, it is the heart and spirit of Peru, evidenced by the Pisco Sour being the national drink. Pisco is a distillate derived solely from grapes, like a cognac, but is not kept in wood barrels, so this transparent, shining alcohol tastes like the delicious aromas of the grapes from which it came. There are 3 types of Piscos, the Puro or single grape, the Acholado, or a blend of 2 or more of the 8 Pisco grapes, and the Mosto Verde, the finest of them which is produced by interrupting the fermentation. Depending on the grapes in each Pisco, they can be aromatic or non-aromatic. Pisco can be tasted neat, like cognac, or added to cocktails. For cocktails typically served with vodka, the non-aromatic Pisco can be a perfect substitute, and for gin-lovers, try replacing it with the crisp aromatic Pisco. The most popular non-aromatic Pisco’s are made with the Quebranta grape and the most popular aromatic use Italia grape.

 

Popular Pisco brands

There are many Pisco brands available in the US market and they can be found in bars and restaurants, liquor stores and via the internet. One of the most active is Caravedo which is very good quality, having as key competitors Barsol, Macchu Pisco, Pisco 100, 1615, Tacama, Biondy, Queirolo, Vinas de Oro, 4 Gallos, Tabernero and Capurro, and many others. In Peru there are more than 500 Pisco producers that follow the rules established in the DO or Denomination of Origin that makes Pisco a protected brand.

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