Santiago de Chile – Lastarria – the pleasures of pisco

Lastarria is a cool little downtown district just to the east of the Centro Historico and Cerro Santa Lucia. There are some nice bits and pieces of architeture dotted about the neighbourhood.

There are lots of bars and restaurants I’d like to check out around here but I came for this one in particular…

Chipe Libre – Républica Independiente del Pisco (Intermediate A), 282 José Victorino Lastarria,

Chipe Libre is a restaurant bar that specialises in Pisco, an aguardiente similar to grappa or orujo, made by distilling the pomace (skins and pips) left over from wine production. Pisco is the national spirit of both Chile and Peru and afficionados of both countries have strong disagreements about who it belongs to.

The Peruvians probably have the strongest claim on the origins of pisco as it was most likely named after the port of Pisco from which it was shipped abroad and which lies on Peruvian territory (although this territory has changed hands in wars between the two). On the other hand, Chile is the largest producer by a considerable margin and also consumes much more of it. The restaurant’s tag line, Républica Independiente del Pisco, sensibly indicates a position of neutral diplomacy as there is evidence supporting both claims.

I’m sure the food is good here but I’d eaten before coming so I was just here to sample their huge range of piscos on the back bar.

Although I did have some yucca chips with yellow aji sauce to nibble on while I was drinking (A).

The piscos were served in flights of three, with lables identifying them attached to the base. My friendly bartender described each one, in Spanish, which was hard for me to follow but I think I grasped the basics.

In Peru, pisco is only distilled once, resulting in an alcohol content of between 38% and 48%. After distillation, it must rest for at least three months in stainless steel or glass containers. It cannot be diluted or have anything added to it, nor is it ever barrel-aged. Hence most Peruvian piscos are clear, although my first flight of clear piscos did include one from Chile.

By contrast, Chilean pisco can be distilled more than once, resulting in a very potent spirit which is then diluted to keep it under 73% alcohol. It’s then aged for a minimum of 60 days, in either glass, metal, ceramic or wood containers.

Hence, Chilean piscos can have golden colors and flavours reminiscent of a cognac or aged rum. The second flight, my favourites, were all from Chile.

I couldn’t leave without having one of my favourite cocktails, a Pisco Sour. Basically it’s Chile’s and Peru’s answer to the margarita; pisco shaken with fresh lemon juice, egg white, simple syrup and crushed ice, although of course both countries also disagree over who first created it. Regardless of that, this is my favourite version, made with maracuya (passion fruit). As ever, Diffords has lots to say about making the perfect Pisco Sour.

I finished with this creation from the bartender. I’m sure it was nice but at this point, my note taking seems to have become compromised for some reason, so I’m not quite sure what it was. Looks good though!

As you can imagine it was time to go home after this! I’ll definitely be back though. You’ll find Chipe Libre on my map. A trip to the market next!

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