Super Bowl XLV with a Pisco Cocktail
Senior year of high school was the peak of my football-watching career. That year, at age 18, I saw the only two football games I’ve ever seen: the George Washington High School homecoming game and the Super Bowl XXXIV. What I remember most about those games is that I saw them. But not who won, how the games were played, or what we ate. Which leaves me with a terrible, gaping hole in both my football knowledge and Super Bowl party recipes.
Over the years, I’ve accepted my football inadequacies and crafted my party recipes at the Oscars and Olympics. Those sparkling and international events have called for classy cocktails and far-flung flavors. If Penelope Cruz is walking down the red carpet or the Poles are ahead in ski jumping, then by all means I must toast them with a true global cocktail. Often on these occasions, I make an Inca Trail pisco cocktail.
I found the mix of muddled limes and oranges, pisco, Cointreau, and orange bitters on Chow years ago. The bright, citrusy drink, whose sweetness is layered with bold alcohol and bitters, has both international and red-carpet-caliber tastes. It’s a stiff, flavorful, sipping drink that combines Peruvian white brandy with French orange-flavored liquor and classic bitters. I imagine Ernest Hemingway might have enjoyed a drink like this on either the coast of Peru or during his New York City book parties.
This year, though, I’m taking the Inca Trail pisco cocktail to the Super Bowl. On Sunday, when the Steelers play the Packers, I will be watching my third football game ever. The New Guy (the one I’m dating) will be popping peanut butter M&Ms in front of the television, and I’ll be in the kitchen with my culinary sidekick Hannah (the one of pickle-making fame). I’ll be there because of them—and all the other friends crowded around the TV—but while they watch, I’ll be stuffing meatballs into hoagies, chopping carrots into sticks, and mixing up a lighter, sweeter version of the Inca Trail pisco cocktail.
I know that the Super Bowl isn’t exactly the place for a serious, globally flavored cocktail, so in the last week, I’ve given a lot of thought to how to make my favorite party cocktail a little more laidback. And I found the answer in simple syrup and lime-flavored sparkling water. Add a touch of both to this pisco cocktail, and you end with a drink that is bubbly and fun. It’s citrusy, like a margarita, but without the acidity. Which makes it an ideal pair for queso dip, Buffalo wings, and even brownies.
Come Sunday, between touchdowns and timeouts, I will be smashing oranges and limes, shaking them with pisco, Cointreau, bitters, and simple syrup—and topping them off with limey seltzer. And if all goes well, and I start to hear over the hum of the game, “Wow, what is this?” or “This is better than a margarita,” then at the end month, when the Oscars roll around, I might just bring out this Super Bowl-inspired recipe.
Sparkling Orange-Lime Pisco Cocktail
Adapted from Chow
Light, refreshing, and sparkling, this is an ideal party cocktail. You can drink a couple, and it pairs well with finger food or a burger. The drink gets its flavor from Latin America: Its base liquor is Peruvian pisco, a white brandy made in that country, and its sweetness comes from oranges and limes.
When making this cocktail, be sure to follow the muddling steps. Muddling citrus releases not only the fruits’ juices but also the oils of their peels. (Which means more flavor.) Also, unless you’re a stiff cocktail drinker, I recommend adding the optional simple syrup. This makes the drink a little softer—and more party-like. And finally, given that this is a cocktail for a crowd, don’t hesitate to multiply the recipe and make a big batch in advance. Simply store the punch in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
2 orange slices, ¼-inch thick
1 lime slice, ¼-inch thick
1 ½ ounces Peruvian pisco
1 ounce orange-flavored liquor, like Cointreau
½ teaspoon simple syrup (optional)
2 dashes orange bitters
Lime-flavored sparkling water
Place orange and lime slices in a cocktail shaker. Using a muddling stick or a wooden spoon, press the fruit until juice is released. Add pisco, orange-flavored liquor, simple syrup (if using), and orange bitters. Top the shaker, and shake thoroughly, about 25 shakes.
Add 3 or 4 cubes of ice to a small highball glass. Pour pisco mixture over ice and top with about 1/3 cup lime-flavored sparkling water. Garnish with a thin slice of lime, if desired.
For printable recipe, click here.