Glass of traditional Peruvian liquor "Chilcano" on the table of an illuminated restaurant
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Chilcano Cocktail

If you’ve been to Peru or have Peruvian friends, you’ve likely tried the refreshing Chilcano. We’ll give you some background on this popular South American cocktail and teach you how to make a Chilcano drink that Peruvians will rave about!

About Chilcano

Chilcano has its origins in Peru in the 1800s, before the even more famous Pisco Sour became Peru’s most recognized drink. Many people believe that the beverage got its name from the Chilcano de Pescado dish, a fish soup to help manage hangovers. As such, many locals treat Chilcanos as a way to revive the body.

The key ingredient in Chilcano is Pisco, a brandy produced in the wine country of Peru. Because Pisco is a high-proof spirit that comes from distilling fermented grape juice, its flavor varies depending on the types of grapes that went into making it.

Pisco can have anywhere from a dry to semi-sweet flavor and herbal or smoky notes. For this reason, Chilcano drinks range in taste based on the Pisco you use.

Besides Pisco, fresh lime juice and ginger ale give this drink a refreshing feel, so it’s a great cocktail to have on a hot day. Peruvians appreciate complex flavors in their food and beverages, so it’s common for them to put a couple of drops of angostura bitters in their Chilcano to add a spicy flare. However, back in the day, they usually didn’t have access to it. 

Ingredients

Below are the ingredients you’ll need to make Chilcano. Make sure to have a highball glass on hand if you want to serve it like they do in Peru.

  • 2 oz Pisco
  • ½ oz Freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Ginger ale (to taste)
  • Dash of Angostura bitters
  • Ice
  • Lime twist

Directions to Make Chilcano

Once you gather the ingredients, making Chilcano is a breeze. Follow the steps below and get ready to impress your Peruvian dinner party guests:

  1. Fill a highball glass with ice and pour 2 ounces of Pisco over it.
  2. Add ½ ounce of lime juice.
  3. Top off the remainder of the glass with ginger ale.
  4. Add two drops of Angostura bitters.
  5. Adorn the rim of the glass with a lime twist.

If you’re serving a large group, you can easily multiply this recipe and serve the cocktail as a pitcher drink. If you choose this option, it’s best to combine the pisco and lime juice in the pitcher.

Leave the ice and ginger ale separate so people can add this to their cups on their own. That way, you don’t have to worry about diluting your Chilcano.

If you’re hesitant to spend the money on a bottle of Angostura Bitters for Chilcanos alone, it’s okay to forgo it—plenty of Peruvians drink it only with Chilcano’s three most important ingredients: Pisco, lime juice, and ginger ale.

Finally, if you want to drink like a real Peruvian, don’t forget to clink your glasses together and say “Salud” before taking your first sip. That’s the Spanish word for “health,” which is a common way for Latin Americans to toast.

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