The most classic of all pisco cocktails; how does La Mar distinguish theirs? "I keep the classic ratio," says Ranella of the ingredients, "but it's really all about the lime juice. Some people mix lemon and lime, but we found after tasting all sorts of things that these Key limes from the Yucatan give the flavor we need, in replicating the acidity of the traditional drink." That juice joins pisco quebranta, simple syrup, and the dash of egg white to give that gorgeous foam on top. Drops of bitters punctuate the surface.
"This is one of the oldest pisco cocktails out there," says Ranella, "invented by Duncan Nicol at the end of the 1800s in San Francisco." This is a pretty traditional representation: pineapple syrup, lemon, pisco acholado. "I wanted to keep it pisco-forward, despite the fruit."
Devil's punch #3
A take on the pisco punch above, the two drinks are "the yin and the yang of this cocktail," says Ranella. Here, toasted cinnamon and cayenne are made into a syrup and join Argentine Malbec, pisco acholado, sherry, and fresh lemon. "With the spice and the wine, it's got a sort of mulled wine thing going on." The warm cinnamon is more apparent than the cayenne; it's not a particularly spicy drink, yet one with layers of spice.
"A totally traditional Peruvian cocktail," made with pisco, ginger ale, and a lot of fresh lime juice. Angostura bitters bleed down from the surface.
Chica tu ma
From a base of chicha morada—a Peruvian beverage of purple corn with pineapple, apple, orange, quince, cinnamon, and allspice "all cooked down like a cider"—pisco, sugar, and lime are added, along with passionfruit, maracuya. "This one started on the menu in Peru, got tweaked a bit in San Francisco, and this is the third version in New York."
A take on the chica tu ma, "brother and sister cocktails," Ranella calls them; pisco and maracuya here meet cranberry and a twist of orange.
Lluvia de los Andes
"More of your refreshing kind of drink," says Ranella, basil and Japanese cucumber muddled with elderflower liqueur, Combier, fresh lime, and lemon bitters. A vivid, herbal drink that would transition well into summer.
Habanero and cranberry are reduced into a syrup, joining pisco quebranta, lime, and falernum; that's all muddled caipirinha-style and served with pisco-blanched cranberries on top. (The flavor genuinely mirrors a caipirinha, too.)
One of the most unusual cocktails going, the pisco acholado joining tequlia reposado, maracuyá (passionfruit), hum liqueur, fresh lime, and a little egg white to get that opacity. "I wanted this one to be bright, but not sweet." Ranella professes to enjoy his forays into Mexican spirits: "Pisco is my wife, but tequila is my mistress."
La mar sangria
"It's a South American take on sangria, but a pretty typical sweet one," says Ranella, Tempranillo with pisco quebranta and cachaça, plus orange, lemon, and a housemade ginger-pineapple syrup. "This one's more straightforward, but we rotate this all the time; we had a spicier version going for quite awhile."
Ranella's pisco-based take on a Negroni, with pisco mosto verde as the base sprit, Campari and Carpano to join. "My pisco apetirif, is how I think of it. I didn't make the ratio equal parts, because I wanted to bring out the floral character of this pisco."
If the previous cocktail was a Negroni, this guy is the Manhattan: rye with pisco acholado, falernum, and averna as a bitter component. "There are grapefruit bitters to work with the falernum, Jerry Thomas' Bitters to work with the rye." This cocktail, Ranella says, "is an attempt to take pisco out of the traditional sweet realm."
Ranella offers at least one special cocktail per week; for Chinese New Year, he brought on the Dragon's Tail, pisco steeped in Chinese five spice and Mandarin orange peel, muddled with tamarind, agave, lime, and cardamom liqueur. "It's earthy but approachable."