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Jose ‘Pepe’ Moquillaza is a pisco connoisseur.

The national spirit of Peru, pisco – like champagne, or tequila – is one of those singular entities so intrinsically linked with a nation’s identity that its production is both protected by traditional methods and is honoured annually with a national day of celebration, Día Nacional del Pisco Sour. Known locally as ‘firewater’, the drink is made from the distillation of young wine grapes into an intense spirit that forms the basis of many an easily-imbibed cocktail – Pisco Sours, the national drink, most famously amongst them.

No stranger to the spirit and the spirit of Peru’s thriving gastronomic scene, GRAZIA solicited a guide to the finest cocktail bars in Lima in which to enjoy the singular tipple from Moquillaza, himself a pisqueros (or pisco producer) who maintains constant contact with local chefs, sommeliers, bartenders and food writers.

When in Lima, do as the Limeños do.

“The cultural axis of Lima runs parallel to the Pacific Ocean from San Isidro and Miraflores to the bohemian suburb of Barranco, where you’ll find the majority of hotels, specialty shops, restaurants and bars. It is here that you will find excellent bars with the best ambience, philosophy, cocktail quality and customer service.

“But if there is one district that breathes the tradition and lineage of Lima, it’s San Isidro. With beautiful republican houses and great gardens that line the financial zone of the city, there are three bars that best express this ostentatious suburb.”
Bar Ingles, Lima Country Club Hotel
“Justly known as the cathedral of Pisco Sour, this five star hotel has impeccable, classic architecture. Founded in 1927, the hotel’s bar was refurbished in 1997 and attracts a variety of patrons from politicians and artists to businessmen and tourists. Bar Inglés boasts the best menu of fine Piscos in Lima and stocks some 58 different labels, as well as dozens of spirits from around the world. The legendary cocktails on offer include (the aptly-named) The Legendary Cathedral of Pisco Sour, the refreshing Chilcano and the sparkling combination of Pisco and ginger ale.

“The bar is open from midday until midnight. For Lima residents, El Bar Ingles is a place of pilgrimage where the music of Bob Dylan and The Beatles lingers in the background over a pleasant chat before they make their way onwards.”

Credit: Santiago Barco
Bar Ole, Calle Pancho Fierro 109
Bar Ole is a classic bar where good taste, good ingredients and technical finesse make the perfect cocktail. From the entrance, the place is special – a rotating door with copper markings opens out to a salon, showcasing Lima’s star bartenders at work, Otimio Cubas and Juan Flores. Between the pair, the cocktail highlights are obvious: The Classic Martini with local gin and Noilly Prat; as well as the legendary Capitan Ole, the Peruvian version of the classic Manhattan whereby Pisco replaces the bourbon. Both cocktails are served ‘Hemingway style’ – in a Martini class with frosted metallic tableware.

“At the end of an evening, food critics usually arrive to drink classic cocktails with the young bartenders, and the music of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett provides the ideal ambience throughout the night.”

Credit: Santiago Barco
Astrid y Gaston
“Cross the street from Bar Ole and you’ve arrived at the stunning Casa Moreyra, an antique hacienda housing the emblematic restaurant Astrid y Gaston. As the 18th best restaurant in the world (San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants), Astrid y Gaston has plenty to boast and the bar is no exception to this. Striking a unique and creative balance between traditional craftsmanship and technical art, the team has concocted various aperitifs using syrups, bitters and herbs from the in-house garden.

“Noteworthy cocktails include the Cholo Mule which is the refreshing Peruvian version of a Moscow Mule with Pisco replacing the vodka, as well as the Equilibrio, which contains a challenging balance of gin, vermouth and native fruit extracts. For those happy to sip the night away, the restaurant has opened an open-air bar, which is the ideal place to seal the first night in the city.”

Credit: Santiago Barco
Central Restaurant
“After you spend a day tapping into the pulse of Lima, it’s time to visit the bar of Central Restaurant, the fourth best restaurant in the world, according to San Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants and the best restaurant in South America. Central’s raving success requires patrons to secure a reservation 120 days in advance! The restaurant is comfortable and medium-sized, with the bar being a smaller space that hosts curious patrons who await their table. It is here that the excitement and tension of being seated in a world-class restaurant is eased by Pisco-based appetisers crafted by bartenders David Castillo and Jean Pierre Diaz. Interestingly, the menu’s cocktails are not given a name. Rather, each beverage is presented by its ingredients and preparation method to prepare the restaurant’s patrons for a harmonised tasting menu.

“Two cocktails that stand out above the crowd include firstly, one prepared with Central American rum, sherry, pineapple juice, and Uncaria tomentose extract. And secondly, a cocktail made from fine Pisco, French vermouth and a cheeky touch of Italian Amaro. The most popular tapas plate here is the Pulpo Laquedao – a grilled octopus dish with native potatoes and brown butter sauce.”

Credit: Paulo Rivas

“In Miraflores, just three blocks from Central, sits Amaz – Lima’s restaurant that specialises in Amazonian cuisine. Amaz was conceived by Pedro Schiaffino, who sought to showcase the cuisine of Amazonian Peru in a city where the influence of both the coast and mountains of Peru, as well as international cuisine, is well represented. It’s here at Amaz where the cultural treasures of the Amazonian pantry come to life with full respect to the region’s origin and seasonality.

“Amaz is unique, challenging and captivating. It is an absolute must for the traveller that searches for the complete Peruvian culinary experience.”
“The restaurant bar is lively with Luis ‘Chino’ Flores, Amaz’s bartender, who chats with patrons while crafting cocktails. Flores has taken many trips to the Amazonas in the name of research, creating a series of cocktails that pair with the menu’s dishes. Flores’ various concoctions never fail to teach and surprise guests with Peru’s Amazonian wonders. Favourite creations include El Capitan Cacao, which consists of Pisco and cacao mucilage (fermented cacao) – simple ingredients that evoke a complex yet divine taste sensation, leaving a silky textured balance on the palate. Another pleasant sensational surprise is the Bloody Black, which is an Amazon-seasoned version of the classic Bloody Mary – a shining example of how the work of a bartender can also reach the heights of a chef.”

Credit: Santiago Barco
Barra 55
“The youngest of all the bars mentioned here, Barra 55 has found its footing in the Lima landscape as the go-to bar for the young and on trend. The bar is just 55m squared in size (hence the name) and has a menu of 55 principal drinks with a strong presence of gin (30 labels), Pisco (10 labels), Tonic Water (10 labels) and artisan beers (five labels). The ambience is casual and sporty, the mixology is classic and the beverages are served in ad-hoc glassware. The real highlight of Barra 55 is the exquisite tapas made by Chef Jeronimo de Aliaga, including the soft tartare beef and the truffled eggs – a subtle combination of flavours making for an irresistible duo.

“The signature cocktails include the gin with ginger and tonic, which strikes a zesty balance between the ginger base, the tonic water and the citrus peels. The shining star of cocktail mixes at Bar 55 has to be El Capitán Blanco. An intriguing round, fruity and herbaceous mix, El Capitán is another adaptation of a Manhattan, replacing bourbon with Pisco Acholado.”

Credit: Santiago Barco
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