So the big announcement this week is the launch of the Japan Pisco Association. And they have launched just in time for Pisco Sour Day, celebrated the first Saturday of February. This year it falls on February 2.
At the moment, pisco unfortunately isn't a spirit stocked by most Japanese bars. In fact, many Japanese bartenders may have never even heard of it. As a result, despite pisco sours being pretty much everywhere outside of Japan, it's hard to find one here.
The Japan Pisco Association will hopefully change that!
To get a better idea of what we can expect from the group, I had a brief conversation with Bruno Nakandakari. Bruno is not only one of the founding members of the Japan Pisco Association, but he's also owner/chef at the Michelin-decorated Bépocah, which is by far Tokyo's finest Peruvian dining. Their menu features more than 20 pisco-based cocktails, so he certainly knows his pisco. On to the interview!
WR: Can you us some insight into the story behind the Japan Pisco Association? What led to its creation?
A group of friends from Peru and some Japanese who love Peru felt the urge to spread the awesomeness of this beautiful distilled drink that is still (surprisingly) so unknown here in Japan.
WR: I understand Pisco Sour Day is now a national holiday in Peru. What are the festivities like over there, and what can we expect for Pisco Sour Day here in Japan?
It is, since 2004. It was created by the government to help promote the drink inside and outside the country. On this day, almost every bar and bar-restaurant create special versions of the drink, or offer special discounts, and Peruvians go out and celebrate. They go to different bars and try as many as they can. Since 2004 some Peruvian restaurants and bars in Japan have been making special events to celebrate the occasion but there haven’t been a unified effort to make this a bigger thing so more local people can get to know about pisco and pisco sour. This is what we, the JPA, intend to help change by organizing and communicating with the different Peruvian restaurants and bar in Japan.
WR: What are some of the Association's plans for spreading the word about pisco in Japan?
-seminars for bartenders and people in the hotel, restaurant, businesses
-providing correct information about Pisco in printed materials and on our website/SNS
-big events once or couple of times a year for the public where people can taste different types of piscos and cocktails
WR: What are some common misconceptions of the spirit?
-That Pisco is originally from Chile
-it is same thing as Grappa
-Transparent spirit is to be consumed at once like cheap tequila shot
WR: Do you have a personal favorite recipe for the pisco sour that you can share?
-2.5 ounces of pisco (quebranta used to be recommended for cocktails for its neutralness though using an aromatic kind like Italia or Torontel can give very elegant results)
-1 ounce of lime juice
-1 ounce of sugar syrup
-1/2 egg white
WR: The dry shake is not a common technique used by Japanese bartenders. What is the Japan Pisco Association's stance on the dry shake?
Dry shake is indeed a technique that will improve the final result of your pisco sour. However it is not very common in Peru, the country of its origin either. As the Pisco association, we would like to recommend it to bartenders showing the difference when performing it and when not. But at events open for the public we’d like to state that there are many options to make it right, that it is a cocktail that you can also enjoy at home even if you got only a blender and no shaker.
WR: Besides a pisco sour, what are some other recommended drinks or other ways of enjoying pisco?
The easy-to-make, simple, yet beautiful “Chilcano”:
2 ounces of pisco, 1/2 ounce of lime juice and fill up with ginger ale in a pre-cooled Collins glass. Sweet ginger ale is recommended.
Thanks for your time, Bruno! Looking forward to seeing much more pisco in Japan.
Whiskey Richard is the founder of nomunication.jp, and has been saying he has lived in Japan for ten years for the past four years. He enjoys drinking basically anything except straight-up Campari.