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Don’t Miss This One-Off Night of Pisco & Peruvian Food

· Ali Turner · Food and Drink

Peruvian eats, Pisco cocktails and tête-à-tête with the experts – this is going to be good.

Smokestack

With two floors of funk, soul, blues, jazz and reggae, Smokestack is one hell of a night out. This year, they're celebrating 10 years with a brand new cocktail menu – check it out for yourself.

You’ve probably never heard of Pisco, you may never have tried Peruvian food – and that’s exactly why you need to be at this event.

Smokestack is one of the city’s hottest nightspots, and Lord knows they have some cracking gigs and DJs coming up, but they’re also incredibly well versed in cocktails – and this November they’re going to prove it with a unqiue event that will see you coupling Pisco cocktails with a menu of authentic Peruvian food. Want in? You’ll have to be quick, because tickets are limited and time is running out – the event takes place on Thursday 9th November 2017.

So, first things first, what the hell is Pisco?

It’s essentially a Peruvian brandy, a distillate of wine, made with grapes and only grapes. In fact, they use just 8 varieties of grape and they’re all indigenous to Peru. Each one can be used on its own or mixed with another to create a distinctive Pisco – and you might be surprised to discover how different it is from the brandy you know. You see, Pisco isn’t aged, it’s rested and served as it is, giving it a deliciously fruity flavour.

But don’t take our word for it, come along on the night and find out for yourself. Diego Loret de Mola will be there – he’s the Head Distiller at BarSol, the brand that’s leading the renaissance of Peru’s national spirit. After all, this is a drink that almost disappeared.

Back in 1968, a military coup d’état saw land ripped from owners and turned into co-operatives. They didn’t have the experience or the knowledge to run the businesses they’d been handed, and as a result, the vineyards they took over fell into ruin. With no vineyards, there was no Pisco – and the industry entered a dark time that lasted right through to the 1980s.

It was then that Diego bought Bodega San Isidro, their current distillery, and began the long journey of rebuilding. “It was pretty much in ruins,” he told us. “So we revamped it, we wanted to bring back the history, the life, the real thing, so we started with that idea and we learned how to make it in a smaller, artisanal way, but we realised that with modern times and technology, we could make it even better.”

And so they decided to combine traditional methods and modern technology, setting their own exacting quality standards, and earning their place as the most respected Pisco distiller in Peru.

What you’ll be eating & drinking on the night

You’ll be drinking four different Piscos, each expertly mixed into a cocktail and served alongside a delicious tasting plate. The menu has been designed by José Wong, Head Chef at Sandinista Manchester, and he’s tried to give you a taste of modern Peruvian cuisine, which is considered to be one of the best in the world today – did you know that Lima, the capital of Peru, is the only city in South America that has three restaurants in ‘The World’s 50 Best Restaurants’?

You’ll be starting the night with an amuse bouche, which in this case is a tasty little concoction, made specially by Lee Jones, Smokestack’s Head Mixologist. It’ll ease you into the evening with a blend of BarSol Selecta Italia Pisco with Cocchi Americano, ginger ale and angostura bitters.

“This drink is quite similar to a Chilcano, which pairs Pisco with ginger. The Italia grape is one of the more aromatic grapes and I thought it would be a nice nod to aperitivo-style drinking in the old world. The spices of the Cocchi and ginger ale will help get the guests’ stomachs rumbling,” Lee told us.

Now that you’ve wet your whistle, you’ll move onto the main event – and it’s a cracker. Pisco is a such a versatile drink and they’ve really gone to town with it here, serving a Travelling Sour, alongside a plate of Ceviche de Lubina. The two go hand-in-hand – ceviche is Peru’s national dish and the Pisco Sour is their national cocktail. José will be serving seabass, diced and marinated in lime, squid ink, onions, Peruvian ‘Limo’ chili, coriander, ginger and celery. It comes served with steamed corn kernels from the Andes and topped with seaweed.

Lee has designed his Travelling Sour especially, bringing together BarSol Pisco Primera Quebranta, peach liqueur, lime husk cordial, aquafaba and frozen raspberry powder to bring out the flavours in the dish. “The classic Pisco Sour had to make an appearance in some way this evening,” he told us. “My version plays off the stone fruit notes you get from the Pisco by adding peach liqueur. The lime cordial is made from used lime shells and provides the balance. Paired with the classic ceviche dish this is going to be a very traditional combo.”

For your second course, you’ve got something entirely different – Empanada Aji de Gallina with a Chicha Flip! This dish has ancient roots in the Inca empire, although the chicken it will be served with here was introduced after the Spanish conquered, there are references to a game bird called the ‘Mapuche’ that was once used in the dish. José is making his with ‘Amarillo’ chili paste, parmesan cheese, pecans and chicken, all stuffed inside an empanada made of filo pastry.

Wash it down with the Chicha Flip, a sweet, silky mix of BarSol Selecta Acholado, corn syrup, egg, banana liqueur and cinnamon. It may sound like an odd match, but it’s actually the perfect partner for the empanadas, as Lee explained, “It adds that wonderful creamy texture, paired with homemade corn syrup and banana liqueur, I was definitely going in the banoffee pie direction of flavour! The acholado is a combination of different grape varieties, giving the pisco body and complexity – enough to stand up to those big thick flavours.”

The third course of the evening promises Anticuchos de Panceta (that’s pork belly to you and me) with a Captain, My Captain cocktail. ‘Anticuchos’ essentially refers to meat that’s marinated with panka chilli. Don’t worry, it’s not hot, but it is loaded with a rich, fruity flavour and that’s what it adds to the dish. It uses a mix of Peruvian ingredients and African cooking techniques, brought to the country by the slaves who worked on the agricultural estates back in the 19th century.

To go alongside this wonderfully meaty dish, you’ll be served a famous Peruvian cocktail, traditionally called ‘El Capitan’ – although Smokestack have given theirs a little more flair. The Captain, My Captain combines BarSol Selecta Torontel, jasmine-infused Cocchi rosa and orange blossom in a twist on a Manhattan-style cocktail.

“I’ve gone with the Torentel grape which is probably my favourite,” Lee confessed. “It has massive aromatic notes of jasmine and magnolia, so makes a perfect companion for an aromatised wine like Cocchi rosa. The ‘anticuchos’ it’s paired with was created by slaves using off-cuts and offal, so I thought the name was a good reference to that time.”

And for final pairing of the night? The ultimate pudding – Cheesecake de Sauco and Mountain Espresso. Sauco is a fruit native to Peru, it’s a bit like a gooseberry, and this cheesecake is a classic in tearooms over there. And what better way to end the night, than with an espresso martini? Except, this one is different because it’s made with Pisco. “The Perfecto Amor is very much like a dessert wine – honeyed and sweet with notes of raisins and almonds,” Lee told us. “Being quite sweet I dried it out with some manzanilla sherry (similar to fino), bitters and coffee.”

Hurry! Get your tickets while you can (and bag £5 off)

This is going to be an incredible night of food and cocktails, a chance to try a drink that you probably never have and a cuisine that you maybe haven’t either – but if you want to go, you’ll have to be quick, because tickets are limited. There are just 24 places up for grabs and they’re going to sell out fast. Tickets are £25, but you can get £5 off with this exclusive code – ELCAPITAN.