I did a search on CocktailDB for pisco cocktails. Besides the well known pisco drinks, namely the pisco sour and the pisco punch, CocktailDB had just three other drinks to offer. CocktailDB is normally a good way to find a list of drinks using obscure ingredients, but when it comes to pisco it does not have much.
The peculiar thing was that all three of these pisco drinks from CocktailDB also included Galliano. Very strange indeed. I am guessing that these three drinks all come from the same source, maybe a promotional cocktail booklet published for some South American market by Galliano, or perhaps they were winning entries in some competition or other. God knows. If anyone has the answer to that one I would be curious to know.
I think Galliano is quite a hard liqueur to mix with since it has such an assertive vanilla taste*. Vanilla goes with most things of course, but pisco is fairly delicate and quite easily dominated by Galliano. In any case, two of the drinks were a bit weird, but the third one was rather good and worth noting. For the sake of completeness I’ll write up all three here, saving the best till last.
First. . .
½ oz pisco
½ oz bianco vermouth
½ oz Galliano
¼ oz triple sec
1 dash Angostura bitters
Shake over ice then strain onto some rocks in an old fashioned glass. I was feeling lazy and just built it over ice.
This is not an uninteresting drink but I doubt I will bother to make it again. I have a hazy memory of having made this a year or two ago and reaching the same verdict. The two liqueurs plus the bianco vermouth make this very sweet, but the herbs and spices in the vermouth, bitters and Galliano help stop it being sickly sweet. You end up with a bitter-sweet and quite aromatic drink. I couldn’t taste the pisco much given all the vermouth and liqueur, but it was still there as a background presence. I can’t imagine when you would want to drink something like this. I guess it could be an aperitif for somebody with a sweet tooth.
This is also one of only a few cocktails to use bianco vermouth. Bianco vermouth has a funny flavor I can’t quite identify. It tastes almost chocolaty, but I’m guessing chocolate isn’t actually an ingredient. Anyone got any ideas on where that chocolaty taste comes from?
Second. . .
1 oz pisco (I used Bauza)
1 oz blended scotch (I used Ballentines)
¾ oz Galliano
Shake with ice, strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.
I found this drinkable, but sweet and unexciting – the unfortunate contribution of the Galliano. Just maybe this could be interesting if you made it with a more robust pisco and scotch. As it stands it is just a slightly interesting Galliano-promotional-booklet-style cocktail. You taste the Galliano and whiskey more than the pisco, though the pisco is still there in the background and adds a layer of flavor that wouldn’t be there if another spirit was substituted. This drink is by no means offensive, but I can’t see why anyone would drink it unless they had some kind of Galliano fetish. Just maybe there is something in the whole scotch-pisco combination, but I think the Galliano needs to be reduced significantly to make this an interesting drink. I am also thinking Tuaca might worker better here. Given that Tuaca has a gentler vanilla flavor, a little citrus, and a brandy base it should partner better with pisco.
Third. . .
New Yorker (exotic)
1 oz pisco
¾ oz Galliano
1 oz grapefruit juice
½ oz lime juice
1 tsp simple syrup
Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
Finally a decent drink!
This one should be popular with modern drinkers given it is a sweet and sour type drink, with a big splash of liqueur and a couple of different fruit juices. The basic composition isn’t so different to some of the vodka-based, flavored ‘martinis’ that are all the rage these days. It isn’t a sugar bomb though, with lime for sourness and grapefruit for an interesting bitterness. I’d been finding the whole pisco and Galliano combination a little weird up until now, but it actually works nicely here. The grapefruit and lime keep the Galliano in check, so the vanilla taste is present without taking over. While the pisco isn’t exactly the main flavor in this (I guess the flavor profile is more citrus-vanilla-bitter), there is no doubt that it is a pisco drink. I probably can’t see myself drinking this too often, but I would make it for someone else if they wanted a pisco drink which was lower in alcohol, a little fruity, and not too sweet. If you have pisco and Galliano lying around you may as well throw one together just for the heck of it. After all, how often do you get an excuse to use Galliano?
If I was to vary this one I’d probably replace the Galliano with Tuaca, and possibly even a dash of orange curacao too since Tuaca is very restrained in the citrus department. I think going down that route might achieve a similar effect with a bit more subtlety. However, I’m not complaining about the recipe as is. It is good enough that it doesn’t need changing around.
* I wrote this post before 2009, when Galliano reformulated their liqueur. From the late 1980s through to 2009 the taste of Galliano was primarily about vanilla. However, this was not the original Galliano. Bols made changes to the recipe when they bought the brand. The brand has been sold again (a couple of times) and in 2009 the new owners reverted to what they say is the original recipe. The current version is much more focused on aniseed. It reminds me a lot of Strega. Some of these drinks may work much better with the new Galliano.