(Reuters.com) - Here's a tip for the thirsty traveller: Both Chile and Peru make tasty variations on the grape brandy known as pisco. Try both if you can.
But wherever you are, pretend that your host country's pisco is the only one for you.
In Santiago, they don't want to hear about Peruvian pisco, which has dominated export markets in America and Europe. A recent push to raise the profile of Chilean pisco may soon move it onto the outside-world's radar.
In particular, Chile's barrel-aged variations are worth seeking out, with flavours that evoke honey and maple syrup. (By comparison, Peru's more traditional methods don't allow for wood-ageing.)
"There are two emblematic drinks every traveller should try when visiting Santiago," says Javier Marcos, export director for Pisco Capel. The first is a crisp and classic Pisco Sour (pisco, lemon, sugar - but not egg whites, as would be found in Peru). The second is the "Piscola", which mixes pisco and cola over ice, plus a thin slice of lemon.
Thrill-seeking tipplers may also consider the famed "Terremoto" (Earthquake), containing pipeño (a sweet fermented white wine), ice cream and pineapple. Served in a one-litre glass, the drink is named, some say, for the trembly feeling experienced after downing it.
Often, the drink is followed by a half-size serving, called a "Replica" (aftershock).
For business transactions over a meal and a drink, Marcos recommends restaurants such as La Mar (<www.lamarcebicheria.com/>), "where they serve seafood emblematic of Chile" plus an all-pisco cocktail menu, and elegant Miraolas (<www.miraolas.cl/>), another seafood restaurant.
Meanwhile, his end-of-day cocktail picks include Bar Liguria (Luis Thayer Ojeda 019 and Av. Providencia 1373); a drink on the outdoor patio at Bar Catedral in the Lastarria neighbourhood, Oporto (Isidora Goyenechea 3477); or the bar at The Aubrey (<www.theaubrey.com/>) boutique hotel.
When it comes to Santiago's drinking culture, Marcos says, tastes run to vodka and rum, as well as pisco. But hard liquor is only part of the story.
"There is also a great wine culture," he adds, plus hundreds of beer brands from across the country, including microbreweries and craft beers, some made in Santiago.
Here's a cocktail that includes two of the three - Chilean pisco and wine. Salud!
By David Wondrich
While not a classic Chilean cocktail, this drink is a knockout way to use pisco. Named after Santiago's university/hipster neighbourhood, Bellavista, this sophisticated, bitter-edged drink is a double threat, showcasing Chilean red wine as well as barrel-aged pisco.
1 ½ oz/45 ml Chilean Pisco*
¾ oz/22 ml Amaro Lucano or Cynar
¾ oz/22 ml Chilean Carmenere red wine
1 teaspoon/5 ml rich simple syrup (2 parts Demerara sugar to 1 part water by volume, stirred over low heat until sugar has dissolved)
Stir together all ingredients with cracked ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and twist a swatch of thin-cut orange peel over the top.
*Recommended pisco: Any pisco that has received significant wood ageing, preferably in American oak barriques.
(Kara Newman is the author of "The Secret Financial Life of Food", Columbia University Press; publication date autumn 2012. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
(Editing by Peter Myers)