Pisco Punch

Pisco Punch


Pisco Punch became legendary thanks to Scottish barman Duncan Nicol, who purchased San Francisco's historic Bank Exchange Saloon—with its house punch recipe—in 1893 and kept it a secret, despite fanfare and public prying until his dying day in 1926.



The recipe here was adapted from a recipe David Wondrich uncovered from one of Nicol's former bar managers in the California Historical Quarterly from 1973, and printed in Imbibe! The appeal of the lost recipe was not only the fact that his version was the most popular; there was also widespread speculation that it was prepared with a secret ingredient.  In Drinking the Devil's Acre, author and pisco producer Duggan McDonnell confides that initially "many thought that the magic ingredient in the punch was merely gum arabic," which was brought back by San Francisco bartender Jen Colliau, who now bottles it under her Small Hand Foods label.  But there was also speculation that Nicol's secret ingredient was cocaine, which may explain why he permitted only two portions per patron. 




2 oz. Campo de Encanto pisco

1 oz. Small Hand Foods pineapple gum syrup

0.75 oz. lemon juice

0.5 oz. pineapple juice

Garnish: 1 pineapple spear




Stir with ice, then strain into a chilled highball glass.  Garnish with the pineapple spear. 



Unsatisfied with pineapple gum as the secret ingredient, Duggan McDonnell makes a cogent argument for the cocaine to have manifested in the form of Vin Mariani, a Bordeaux-based fortified wine aromatized with coca leaves.  Using Rudyard Kipling's description of a red drink as further evidence, McDonnell prepares his Pisco Punch with the addition of a Bordeaux-based quinquina, Lillet rouge—a delicious hack, and a cogent application of mixography. 

Photography by Doran Gild Photography 

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Reprinted from Meehan's Bartender Manual with permission by Ten Speed Press

Jim Meehan is a bartender, journalist, and author of The PDT Cocktail Book and Meehan’s Bartender Manual, has worked in nearly every capacity of the hospitality business for the latter half his of his 40 years on the planet.

A Chicago area native schooled in Wisconsin, who achieved acclaim for his work behind bars in New York City; he now spends almost as much time on the road at trade shows and trainings as at home in Portland, Oregon.

Jim’s passion for service, quest for further knowledge, belief in the transformative power of hospitality, and commitment to mentor the industries next generation is only divided by his duties as a proud father and devoted husband.


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