My very first introduction to pisco, the traditional Peruvian spirit, was at a New York ceviche bar. Our Peruvian server had conned my entire table of already-buzzed idiots into taking a shot of pisco, straight up. If you've ever tried pisco, you know that taking shots of this spirit, which has a strangely diesel-like boozy punch, is generally a bad idea. Mixed into a cocktail, though, pisco has the potential to create an incredible drink.
For whatever reason, pisco hasn't really taken off in the cocktail world. It can be found on most high-end cocktail menus, but if you survey 10 of your friends, eight of them have probably never heard of it. In Chile and Peru, close to a hundred million gallons of the stuff are consumed every year, which is probably why brands like Pisco Porton have been furiously trying to introduce it to the American market.
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To be honest, I didn't expect to see it on a cocktail menu in Addison at all, but that's only because I underestimated Neighborhood Services. The cocktail menu here is well composed and wide ranging, offering everything from entry-level watermelon rickeys to the classic martini jazzed up with house pickles and blue cheese-stuffed olives. I landed on the Right Hook, made with vanilla-infused pisco, expecting a spirit-forward cocktail that would help me shake off a stressful week.
What I got was a much more delicate drink than I anticipated. When mixed with fresh pineapple juice, lime and simple syrup, the Right Hook is much more gentle. The pisco flavor is prominent, but a vanilla infusion softens its sharp edges. Still, this is the type of cocktail that you know can be dangerous -- boozy, and almost too sippable. Even though pisco is technically a brandy, the alcohol content is closer to hard liquor than fortified wine.
The Right Hook is a play on a traditional pisco punch, developed in the 19th century at a bar in San Francisco, California. The original recipe included pineapple juice, pisco, gum Arabic, and distilled water. To describe the resulting cocktail, a writer once said that pisco punch could make a gnat fight an elephant, an assessment that is not too far off if you've ever had a few too many pisco-based drinks. And, at only $11, it would be easy to have a few too many of these and end up throwing a few of your own right hooks.
As great as it was, though, there is still room for improvement. There is no garnish to distract from the cocktail's humble origins or flavor profile, but a slice of brûléed pineapple on a skewer would have been a nice way to finish this cocktail. The Right Hook could have also benefitted from a few dashes of bitters, to help balance the competing sweet, sour and boozy flavors of the pisco, lime and pineapple juice. Overall, though, it's one of the best drinks I've had this year.