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Macerates: history, science and flavor of the encounter of pisco with our biodiversity

A demijohn is the intimate setting of this wonderful creation. Pisco breaks and inputs from the land in the process of transmutation, give life to the macerado Peruvian that surrounds with its aromas and fills the palate with flavor. Ancestral drink that now, in times of pandemic, comes to light in the local market, as one who demands our attention. Isabel Álvarez has said it: “Waking up in this loneliness leads us to value these drinks (as has also happened with home cooking)”. And the sociologist and owner of El Señorío de Sulco is right, who for decades has been a witness and faithful practitioner of the ancient art of maceration.

Not as famous as the famous French liquors Grand Marnier and Cointreau (product of the maceration of oranges), nor the Italian Limoncello and Amaretto (the first based on lemon peel; the second, made with ingredients such as almonds and apricot kernels) , the macerated in Peru have a history that is not very clear, but it is peppered with a special charm.

‘El pisquerito’ Hans Hilburg and Isabel Álvarez agree that the macerates have an ancestral origin. Delving into the colonial years, the gastronomic researcher reminds us that the history of wine and pisco, which were born almost together, go parallel, and that in the second half of the 16th century, on that long journey that Peruvian wine undertook with On the way to New Spain (in the territory that today Mexico and a large part of Central America occupy), it is known that fruit macerated in brandy was added to this drink, thus preventing it from becoming vinegary (about this stabilization process, we will return later).

The Pisco mixologist Hans HilburgFor his part, remember the places where this liquor was sold. He cites the Carlini on Avenida Santa Cruz, in Miraflores, where at the beginning of the 70s they sold macerated cherries and also “prepared drinks that were crazy, although fun,” he confesses. Also in that district, on the border with Surquillo, was El Chupón, where the ‘Chato’ Víctor Cárdenas F. made macerated coca leaves, cherries and chilli, “as well as other preparations that were sold without a prescription”; And the same thing happened at the famous Rancho Grande on Agua Dulce beach. But it was Hilburg himself who, in the mid-90s, in the well-remembered Bohemia Café y Más, in the Gutiérrez oval, was in charge of spreading the flavor of macerated with strawberries, apricots and blond raisins in creative cocktails that paired the proposals of the nascent ‘ gastronomic boom.

Some years before, inside large glass pebbles placed in some corner of El Señorío de Sulco (Surco, 1986) a tradition already rested. This is how Isabel Álvarez remembers the clubs she put together on the last Friday of each month: “When we opened the Señorío, we started doing research and raised a topic for each night. There was pisco there, and they drank macerated products like those offered in pharmacies ”, he refers to the places where these drinks used to be produced in the past. Julio Ramón Ribeyro, Alfonso Barrantes Lingán ‘Frejolito’, Fernando Belaunde Terry, Manuel Acosta Ojeda and Rodolfo Hinostroza used to drink macerated wines, surrounded by the music of great Creole interpreters.

Pure science

We take a moment away from the remembrances to get to know the practice of maceration in depth. Sergio Rebaza, journalist and researcher of the national cañazo, outlines a classification by regions of what is macerated in Peru: roots in the jungle; fruits like aguaymanto (also called capulí) or herbs in the Andes, and everything on the coast. And to deepen the process, he recommends that we speak with Karlos Cussianovich, founder of the Amazon Cañazo Jungle Caine and professor at the UNALM Faculty of Food Industries. He illustrates us about this practice that in Peru is not completely standardized.

Cussianovich explains that. In this process, two phenomena will occur: osmosis, which occurs when alcohol and water migrate through the membranes of the raw material; and diffusion, which extracts the aromatic and flavor components from the raw material where they are concentrated, to drag them towards the alcohol.

Now, the food industry engineer indicates that achieving a balanced mash will depend on certain factors:

1. The alcoholic degree of the distillate in which it is macerated: the higher the degree, the shorter the maceration time.

2. The amount of raw material used per liter of alcohol.

3. The components of the raw material. On this point, Hans Hilburg reminds us that dehydrated product must be used to avoid a watery maceration. Cussianovich explains it like this: “If my raw material contains water, the alcoholic strength of the pisco that was used for that maceration will decrease. Furthermore, water is not suitable if what you want is to extract color, aroma and flavor ”.

4. The temperature at which I cook: it can be hot or cold. At a higher temperature, the maceration time is reduced (it happens when we infuse a tea) but it goes to the detriment of some compounds that we want to preserve.

5. The state of maturity of the fruit: the more it ripens, the membrane will be more sensitive to the process of osmosis and diffusion to reach the point of equilibrium.

6. Scalding (mild heat treatment, which produces microbial load and softens the raw material, which also makes the membrane more permeable for diffusion and osmosis).

However, unlike wine, which is considered a living being capable of evolving over time, a maceration that has already reached the point of equilibrium would not have to undergo any transformation. Why? “The alcoholic degree is in charge of stabilizing the product so that microbes do not enter or alter it,” says the engineer. And theoretically, with 15 and even 20 degrees we could be sure that it will be fine. ” This explains why, in colonial times, fruit macerated in brandy was used to increase the alcoholic strength of fortified wines on their way to the north of the continent.

Toasting at home

The bartender confirms Rodrigo Soto that interest in macerates gained strength with the pandemic and periods of social confinement: adult Peruvians, prevented from enjoying our favorite cocktails at the bar or in a restaurant, took refuge in the homemade preparation of simple drinks. The chilcano de pisco was perhaps the favorite, but the achilcanados (the recipe that includes macerated with pisco) took hold to complete the diversity quota in flavor. “There has always been a Pisco crowd, and not being able to access their favorite places, a lot of people started making their macerates at home. Companies also emerged that began to make them, and it was seen as a business: some contacted bartenders to help them make the macerates ”, he details.

Soto also recognizes that people returned to “less is more”, because in the difficult situation generated by the pandemic, when the reactivation occurred, restaurants allowed to sell alcohol had to reduce costs, opting not so much for imported products but rather quality establishments, such as pisco, which resulted in a greater offer of cocktails with pisco macerates, thus strengthening its presence in a market that, let’s not forget, was already aware of this alchemy. Because just like El Señorío de Sulco, restaurants like Brujas de Cachiche and its bar Huaringas (both closed at the beginning of the health crisis), or Mayta by Jaime Pesaque, were among the first to stand out for the variety of their macerates.

In 2009, chef Jaime Pesaque's restaurant Mayta began experimenting with various inputs for his macerates.  Today, in their new premises on Av. La Mar, they already add between 90 and 120 flavors, depending on the season.  (Photo: GEC Archive)

“In 2009 we started with the macerates” recalls Jaime Pesaque. The Mayta bar, in its first location on Av. 28 de Julio, was recognized for the great variety of macerates: the kion and cinnamon were the first, until, among flowers, roots, leaves and mix of flavors, as detailed the chef, who has maintained the tradition in his restaurant on Av. La Mar, always using the pisco quebranta from Bodega 1615 as a fundamental input.

Fruits of Peru

It reads on the note attached to the bottle of an almond-flavored liqueur, named Khata (Quechua word associated with the furrow through which the plow passes), which. And so it is. Anise, coca leaves, Huando oranges, lemon verbena, figs, peaches and aguaymanto rested in demijohns in the heat of a good quebranta pisco to achieve various flavors of this product, whose origin dates back to the beginnings of the Señorío de Sulco, in 1986. For decades it was served as an aperitif, a drink or cocktail ingredient in the Miraflores restaurant, but it was with the pandemic, in 2020, that Khata was launched on the market in 500 ml bottles. On its label it is announced that the content is 40% alcohol and is handmade, but also has fruits of Peru printed, as a tribute to our natural wealth.

Khata, a Quechua word associated with the furrow through which the plow passes, gives its name to the new line of macerates at the El Señorío de Sulco restaurant, which adds 35 years of tradition with pisco macerates.  (Photo: Broadcast)

Like the sulcano macerate, other producers of infusions made with pisco took a step forward in these times of health crisis, enhancing not only the habit of drinking it but also enhancing the richness and biodiversity of Peru. We notice it both in small startups and in large launches. As an example of the first we mention My mother, a raspberry macerate made by hand in the Villa Gabita country house (Quilmaná) and which was launched last May on the occasion of Mother’s Day. The content of each 125 ml bottle. It is made with, which has been distilled in the country house itself for many years, under the advice of the Pisco master Alberto Di Laura. They produce limited quantities, from time to time.

Between Cañete and Ica there is also another well-known maceration: Masco, from the winery Queirolo vineyards. It was created several decades ago, and Jorge Queirolo tells us about it: “Masco de pluela was born from a homemade family recipe. Our ancestors made their macerates to generally prepare sweets and desserts, and that’s where the idea came from. In the 70s, the first production began to be produced, some 7,000 liters: the plum of the Santa Rosa variety was bought, macerated with pisco and a reasonable time was allowed for it to take on the taste and sweetness of the fruit; then it was bottled and put on the market ”.

The liquor was well received and therefore its production continued, increasing over the years. Today, under the supervision of the winery’s chief winemaker, the Argentine Luis Gomez, the mash has had a relaunch. “This new project started last year with the maceration of fruit and giving it a more elegant touch,” says the person in charge of the Intipalka wines and all the production of the southern vineyard.

The seventies Masco de pluela gave way to the new Don Santiago macerates, made with plums, mandarins and raisins from the vineyards themselves.  (Photo: Broadcast)

With Gómez leading the team, two more have been added to the star product, under the name Don Santiago. “We made three products that basically have a certain amount of fruit macerated in a certain amount of time, achieving the balance between pisco and fruitiness. I wanted there to be that balance and we achieved it after a couple of months, when we were separating the tanks and setting up limited batches “, he says about the three macerates: mandarin, fruit of the Clementina and Murcott varieties, which provide different estates in Ica. ; of plum, which comes from Huarochirí and is of the Santa Rosa variety (small and with a concentrated flavor), and of raisins, which are made from Muscatel de Alejandría grapes, from the Queirolo vineyards, which are left overripe to provide more natural sugars and thus achieve the desired characteristics.

, is the final recommendation that the Argentine winemaker gives to enjoy a good maceration, a drink that in winter has warmed us up and that, facing next summer, with a solid piece of ice, will surely add followers. Because it has everything you need: good taste, it represents our biodiversity and it is Peruvian with P de pisco.


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