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History of the classic Pisco Punch

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1853 | San Francisco, USA


A drink originally from San Francisco - or, more accurately, The Bank Exchange and Billiard Saloon, where Mark Twain, Jack London, and Rudyard Kipling were known to visit.

It was that bar that made the drink a classic, taking its exact recipe with it to the grave. Its PISCO PUNCH was compared to the "nectar of the gods;" it went down like lemonade and got you drunk like vodka. Duncan set a hard rule: two

portions of the punch were enough for a gentleman. If anyone wished to have a third, he would first have to walk around the block. Even millionaire John MacKay, the richest person in America at the time, would take his top hat off of the antlers that served as a coat rack and went out for fresh air. The cocktail owed its wild popularity in part to the bartender's charm and charisma, and in part to the fact that among its ingredients was a Peruvian syrup made from coca leaves which was banned in 1914.

In 1906, the bar survived the earthquake that destroyed half the city, but could not resist Prohibition. By the end of the 1930s, the PISCO PUNCH easily took the title of the city's drink: it was served, for instance, in 1939 at the opening

of the Golden Gate Bridge. When at the end of the 1930s the House of Pisco opened in Barbary Coast, it was the PISCO PUNCH that became the infamous establishment's signature drink - though it was more famous as the first topless club in America.

Those days have long since passed, and now the tallest skyscraper in the city, the Transamerica Pyramid, stands on the site of the former bar. Only a memorial plaque at the intersection of Montgomery and Washington Streets serves as a reminder of the classic establishment.


See the recipe


Historian: Vladimir Zhuravlev

Illustration: Moe

Journalists: Sara Davis, Samantha Johnson

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