Pisco fever: a visit to Lima (in London)

Cuento del DiabloFor some years, pisco has been poised to be the “next big thing” in the UK. This year, it finally seems to be happening, albeit in a small way. It has been led by Peruvian restaurants opening in London, from Martin Morales’s Ceviche in Soho in February to Coya, which was opened this month by Arjun Waney whose other ventures include Roka, Zuma, La Petite Maison and The Arts Club.

Lima opened in Fitzrovia in July, created by chef Virgilio Martinez and restaurateur brothers Gabriel and Jose Gonzalez, with bold, Peruvian-inspired interiors by March & White. While the whole two-storey venue is geared towards dining, the bar in the basement serves up an inventive range of pisco-based cocktails under head bartender Andrei Marian.

“Pisco has become a fashionable spirit here in London,” says Andrei, pictured. “There are lots of restaurants opening up that are serving Peruvian food and using pisco.”

andrei marianLike brandy, the spirit is obtained by distilling fresh grape musts recently fermented and is the only spirit in the world made exclusively from pure grape juice or must without adding water or aged in oak so it maintains the varietal qualities of the grapes from which it is made.

There are two types of pisco. Non-aromatic ones, like Lima’s house pisco 1615, are made from a single non-aromatic grape variety such as Quebranta, Mollar, Common Black and Uvina and have a clean finish and are fruity and a bit citrusy. Aromatic piscos such as Payet are made from single grape varieties such as Italia, Moscatel, Albilla and Torontel and have a fruity taste like citrus and passion fruit.

As well as 1615 Quebranta 2007 and 1615 Mosto Verde Quebranta, Lima’s bar stocks Payet Quebranta, Payet Torontel, Payet Acholado, which are supplied via Amathus, as well as pisco Qollque Italia 2006.

“At Lima, we try to bring new flavours in a modern way with the food and the drinks,” Andrei says. They create their own pisco infusions such as aji chilli, orange peel, cucumber, and coffee bean and vanilla.

Cocktails include the Cuento del Diablo (pictured top), mixing chilli-infused pisco with fresh strawberries, fresh lime juice, grenadine and Cointreau, served in a Martini glass with two chillis on the rim to look like devil’s horns.

The Nasca, which is named after a region in Peru, uses pisco infused with orange peel and mixed with Meletti amaro, Vya dry vermouth, Campari and Angostura Bitters, which is stirred and garnished with orange peel.

The Kantuta is named after the national Peruvian flower and is made with cucumber-infused pisco, fresh cucumber, beetroot juice, lime juice and agave syrup, garnished with edible flowers.

The bar offers plenty of other Peruvian drinks such as a chilcano, which is a mix of pisco with lemon juice, simple syrup, bitters and ginger ale. The bar’s list also features Peruvian beer Cusqueña.

But Andrei says that Pisco Sours (pictured above) remain very popular as well as the classic twist of a Maracuyá Pisco Sour made with fresh passion fruit juice. He is keen to mark annual National Pisco Sour Day which is held in Peru on the first Saturday in February. “When you hear the national anthem, everyone has to drink the Pisco Sours on the table,” he explains.

Lima, 31 Rathbone Place London W1T 1JH Tel: 020 3002 2640 www.limalondon.com

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