Tag Archives: ceviche

Pisco Sours and Ceviche on Easter Island

22 Aug

By Patric Baird

What do you do when you arrive on Easter Island, having flown for almost 24 hours from the UK?  Have a lie down? Head straight for the iconic statues which are featured all around the island? Or, as I did, go into town for a much anticipated lunchtime cocktail, namely Chile’s national alcoholic beverage, a pisco sour.

Actually there’s some dispute as to whether Chile or its neighbour Peru have ownership of this sub-tropical tipple;  they do it differently anyway, with the Peruvian version containing egg white, sugar syrup and angostura bitters, whereas the Chilean version is a simpler mix of the spirit pisco, sugar and lime (or lemon) juice.

To confuse things even further, both countries have their own version of the spirit itself, although maybe only an expert could distinguish the subtle nuances in taste between each of the South American country’s offering.  There’s no denying that Chile has the best bottle – one of the country’s biggest manufacturer is Capel and their Pisco Reservado comes in a black glass bottle, shaped like one of Easter Island’s statues.

So what is pisco and why the odd name?  It’s basically a brandy made from grapes, much like its Greek cousin, grappa, sweet tasting and ranging in colour between almost clear to a dark yellow hue, depending on the quality and strength of the liquor.  Some say the name comes from the Peruvian town of Pisco (probably the most likely explanation), but Chile disputes this (not surprisingly), claiming that the word pisco is of Quechua origin and means ‘bird’.

There’s another school of thought which suggests the word pisco means a clay pot, so make your own mind up on that one.  More importantly, how does it taste?  On its own, not much to write home about but, when turned into a pisco sour, it has a unique and delicious taste and, as it turned out, the perfect pairing for that other South American staple, ceviche.

The Japanese don’t have a monopoly on raw fish, although ceviche, which is found in most coastal regions of the continent, as well as in Central America and as far west as Polynesia, is usually ‘cooked’ by marinating the raw seafood in a mixture of citrus juice, chilli and seasonings.   Each region has its own particular style, with mainland Chile and Easter Island favouring fillets of halibut, or the native and delightfully-named Patagonian toothfish, marinated in lime or grapefruit juice, flavoured with garlic, red chilli peppers, mint and coriander.  Combined with a refreshing pisco sour, the zing of a well-made ceviche proved to be the perfect antidote to seemingly incurable jet lag and was by far the best thing about Easter Island – until I got my first glimpse of those amazing statues, that is.