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History of Pisco

Pisco is the most popular alcohol in Peru and is best enjoyed in the form of the famous Pisco Sour. The origins of Pisco can be traced back to 1532, when the Spanish Conquistadores invaded Peru. The Spanish brought special wine to be used in holy services, however their supplies were scarce. In 1553, Marquis Francisco de Caravantes imported grapes from the Spanish city of Seville. The year 1563 saw vineyards being planted in the sunlit and clear lands in the south of Peru- namely Ica. These Spanish grapes adjusted well and thrived in the rare soil. The dry air and water from the nearby valleys nourished the grapes. Those who were responsible for the production of the wine selected only the finest grapes and the rest were given to the native people and local farmers. In 1613, small communities of locals- led by Pedro Manuel- instigated using the grapes for fermentation and produced a clear brandy-like spirit that became known as ‘Fire Water’.

So, how did it get the name of Pisco? Latterly it was named after the municipality of Santa María Magdalena which had a port named ‘Pisco’. With the arrival of merchants from all over the world the spirit became very popular and demand for international distribution grew. As a result, the name Pisco was adopted for the drink to keep things simple. From this port, the product was dispensed down the coast of Peru and Chile, together with being traded through ports in the Pacific and Europe. The valleys of Ica and Pisco made up more than 85% of all wine and pisco. By 1764, pisco overtook wine completely and made up 90% of the grape production in the district.

Between the years of 1830-1870 pisco was being used in chic and trendy cocktails in the big cities of America such as New York and San Fransisco. Peru had come into a golden age of production and people were paying a high price for the spirit. Nonetheless, despite high demand things began to change. When Napoleon invaded Spain in the 19th century the glory days of pisco seemed to be over. With rising industrialization in Europe and the Civil War in America- many local producers began to substitute their pisco sewing for more profitable products. During this time Chilean production of pisco steadily rose and in 1931 the government fought to establish the rights of origin. The products from the two countries are said to be very different spirits, and of course Peru has a much longer association and history. Finally, in 1999 there was a revival of growing and producing pisco in Peru and the country’s administration sought to obtain the rights to exclusive use of the name pisco once more. At present there is still friction between the two countries as to who should own the intellectual property rights to the spirit. Both Peru and Chile consider it a vital part of their legacy and culture.

Pisco is truly a unique spirit and is considered by modern mixologists as a versatile and exciting product. In Cusco alone there are many cocktail bars dedicated to producing stand out infusions. The classic Pisco Sour, Chilcano de Pisco and Punch de Pisco can be enjoyed almost anywhere in the city from as little as 10 soles.

48 hours in Cusco City

From the minute you arrive in Cusco City the charming and the delightful ‘hustle and bustle’ of the city will envelope you. With an estimated 1.5million tourists to the city every year, it is no secret that the ancient citadel Machu Picchu is the reason for this. However, the city of Cusco should not be overlooked as merely a jumping point to reach this wonder of the world. The city itself has an abundance of things to offer. Granted, not everyone has the time to immerse themselves here but with our help you can cram your days full of exciting and enriching activities, sights and experiences.

So what happens if you only have 48 hours in Cusco?

Day 1.- Chinchero will take you half an hour outside Cusco further into the Andean Mountains. It has a breathtaking backdrop of the Vilcabamba Mountain range and the snowcapped Salkantay. It is a fantastic way to spend a morning. There is a great display of Inca architecture, ruins and megalithic carved rocks. Chinchero is the original site of the famed Peruvian weaving. The market here is lively and you are guaranteed to find a bargain or two. The presentation of the textiles here is an absolute must. The woman of Chinchero will demonstrate how they produce different colours for the wool they spin and weave.

Upon returning to Cusco we recommend lunch at the local restaurants, as is known by the local people as ‘Piccanterias’. You can sample many Peruvian delicacies and typical food, as well as Chicha. Chicha is considered as a sacred drink from the Incas time. This is not to be confused with the purple Chicha because the real Chicha is sandy in colour and fermented.

Walking Tours might be the most common way to explore a city and are offered nearly everywhere in the world. However, we still believes that YES it is the best way to explore and understand the city. In the afternoon the tours start at the picturesque main Plaza- Plaza De Armas. Native Tour Guides will lead you around the ancient colonial streets and exciting neighbourhoods such as San Blas (known as the hippy area full of artists and musicians). The tour will also include stops at the 12 angled stone building, Temple of the Sun and San Pedro Market to name a few.

By night you can visit the Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo. Here you can enjoy live performances of Andean music and dance. The venue may be modest but the show is vibrant and rich in history.

Day 2.- San Pedro Market (Mercado Central de San Pedro) is the weird and wonderful jewel of Cusco. Never before will you have seen such a vast assortment of produce to buy. You could easily spend over an hour wondering around. The juice vendors are famous here, and with over 30 to choose from it can be overwhelming. We find the best start to the day is fuelling up with fresh fruit and veggies. Also, the chicken soup here is in our humble opinion the best in Cusco. Those of you with a strong stomach may only be able to venture towards the end of the market- as this is where the weird is really on display…donkey heads…snakes blood…pig snouts.

A short ride in a collectivo will take you up to Qenqo near to the Temple of the Moon. You can explore the sacred caves that were used for ancient ceremonies and religious practices dedicative to different deities. You can then follow part of the Inca Trail down to the Cristo Blanco- a fantastic viewpoint over the city. You can follow the rest of the trail down through San Blas to the main plaza.

To finish your stay off in Cusco, we suggest you relax and enjoy yourself in one of Cusco’s many Pisco Bars. We recommend Museo Del Pisco where you can opt for a tasting flight or sample some of the unique pisco cocktails. Or, if you are looking for something more casual Bar Limbus offers a fantastic view over the city- and with the many stairs to get there you will truly have earned your drink.