If American drinkers are warming up to high-end brandy, then the next logical step is for them to dive into pisco. The Peruvian spirit, after all, is really Andean brandy, made from European grapes but with South American verve. And the best of the high-end stuff is Pisco Viejo Tonel.
You can find it at Blind Rabbit in Anaheim and Blind Pig in Rancho Santa Margarita, but Viejo Tonel's local shrine is El Mercado Modern Cuisine in SanTana, not just because the food and cocktails are spectacular, but because head bartender Cesar Cerrudo is Peruvian, too (what, you thought he was Mexican? Not all Latinos are, dontcha know). And if he's there, ask Cerrudo to regale you about the glories of Viejo Tonel.
Cerrudo makes fruity, sharp cocktails using the Mosto Verde variety, but it's better to drink the aromatic Italia neat. Whatever pisco you get, expect them to start subtle, swing hot, then linger wonderfully on the palate and refresh you—perfect for summer. Get a couple of Cerrudo drinks, then go down to Hi-Time Wine Cellars and get a bottle or 80. Now, if only a local Peruvian could start importing some alcoholic chicha. . . .
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Pisco Viejo Tonel available at Hi-Time Wine Cellars, 250 Ogle St., Costa Mesa, (949) 650-8463; www.hitimewine.net