Pisco Punch Recipe

This sweet and sour cocktail packs quite the pineapple punch.

Pisco Punch Recipe

“…Compounded of the shavings of cherub’s wings, the glory of a tropical dawn, the red clouds of sunset and the fragments of lost epics by dead masters.”

Rudyard Kipling wrote those words in his 1899 work “From Sea to Sea”. What or who was he speaking about? What was this glowing and flowery passage an endorsement of? Not a place, and neither a person. He spoke of a drink, a cocktail called the Pisco Punch.

From 1853 to 1919, the Bank Exchange & Billiard Saloon served the people of San Francisco all manner of libations and liquors. Among them was a spirit called pisco, a brandy-like alcohol hailing from Peru. The last owner of the saloon, a man named Duncan Nicol, created a popular cocktail using this particular giggle juice and named it the Pisco Punch. Combined with lime juice, sugar, gum arabic (a thickening agent) and water, this sweet and sour cocktail helped add to the popularity of the Bank Exchange. Writers such as Mark Twain sang the beverage’s praises, raising its status as a trendy drink even more.

What’s fascinating to me is the recipe we’re making today, and other variations of it, are all sort of based on conjecture and lucky guesses. Legend has it that the recipe for the Pisco Punch was handed down from owner to owner and inherited by Nicol. And that exact recipe, whether his own or bequeathed, was a closely guarded secret. In 1919, the saloon closed its doors forever due to Prohibition, and when Nicol died in 1926, the Punch’s recipe went to the grave with him. While the drink survives to this day, the exact way it was made during those golden years in San Francisco is forever lost to history.

What is Pisco?

Originally created in 16th-century Peru by fermenting grapes, but also made in Chile, this sometimes clear or yellow-amber colored spirit is often compared to grappa, but is technically considered a brandy. Depending on the grapes used, the flavor will naturally vary and include many floral and herbal infusions. Some are considered “puro”, or distilled from a single grape variety, or “acholado”, meaning two or more were used. If you’ve never considered pisco before, you’ll have a whole new world of cocktails to enjoy.

What is the best Pisco to use in a Pisco Punch?

If you’re new to pisco, like I am, you can always ask a trusted bartender to recommend something specific. Or you can do what I did and have a little fun experimenting. At my local spirits shop, I found a few decently priced bottles; one a puro and one an acholado. Since the puro pisco is only distilled from one variety of grape, I found its smoothness balanced nicely with the tart citrus. The acholado, on the other hand, brought a more complex and somewhat different flavor to the party.

Pisco Punch Recipe
5 minutes


  • 2 ounces pisco
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 ounce pineapple gomme syrup


  • Chill your glass. Before you start. Combine the pisco, fresh lemon juice, and pineapple gomme syrup in a cocktail shaker.
    Pisco Punch Recipe
  • Fill the shaker with ice, covering the liquid for optimal chilling.
    Pisco Punch Recipe
  • Shake for about 15 seconds and strain into your chilled glass. Enjoy!
    Pisco Punch Recipe


Calories: 64kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 0.2g | Fat: 0.1g | Saturated Fat: 0.01g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.01g | Sodium: 7mg | Potassium: 38mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 1IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 6mg | Iron: 0.1mg
Pisco Punch Recipe

FAQs & Tips

Pisco Punch Recipe

Pisco Punch Variations & Similar Cocktails

Because the original recipe disappeared with the death of Duncan Nicol, I’m of a mind that every Pisco Punch that has been served in the years since is basically a variation. Of course, many mixologists and bartenders have come up with different offshoots and flavored variations, anyplace you have one of these cocktails will probably be different from the last, depending on where you had them and who mixed them.

  • If you’re new to pisco-based cocktails and want to try another classic drink featuring the spirit, Twist & Toast has the perfect recipe for you, the Pisco Sour.

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