A View from the City: Lima

Franco Cabachi, co-founder of Clase Maestra, a Latin American cocktail event held in Lima, Peru.

Tell us about Lima’s drinking culture.

If we talk about the history of drinking culture in Lima, we have to go back to the 1920s. Maybe we will go to Calle Boza 847 and order a whisky cocktail, Gin Fizz and, of course, Pisco Sour. We are talking about the legendary Morris Bar of Victor Morris. He is the person who brought cocktail culture to Lima. Nowadays, Pisco is gaining a lot of consumers. Not only Pisco Sour but all the variants – Chilcano de Pisco, a type of Highball cocktail with pisco and ginger ale, and the famous Pisco Punch which is in all the bars and restaurants in Lima city. 

Rum and beers have always had a special place in people’s hearts. Old people are very traditional – they always drink a beer and that’s all. Maybe the young people are more curious about experiencing cocktails and they want to try something different.

When did the city get in to cocktails?

The boom began three or four years ago. By having ways to find information online people started watching videos about bartending and entering competitions (World Class is one of them). All these factors made a breakpoint in Peruvian bartending. Also, Clase Maestra (the most important event about cocktail culture in Latin American) helps to grow the cocktail culture in Peru. We have a long road to walk... but we are still going and growing.

Who and what are the pioneer bartenders and bars?

I would like to mention people who are working very hard to improve our cocktail culture. Aaron Diáz is working in the famous Astrid & Gaston restaurant. Gastón Acurio is probably the most well-known celebrity Peruvian chef of all time and Diaz is probably the best-known celebrity bartender. The restaurant has one of the most important cocktail menus in Latin America. 

Luis Flores is another great young bartender who is working in a famous restaurant in Lima, Ámaz. This is a new Amazonian restaurant opened by Pedro Miguel Schiaffino. 

We cannot ignore the boom of gin (and Gin & Tonic) around the world and Peru is no exception. David Romero is making a great menu with different brands of gins. What is his secret? He is making a famous “old school cocktail’’ with a Peruvian twist.  Besides that, he has Gin & Tonic menus which will explode your senses. 

Where does the city rank in terms of bar scenes?

Well, I do not know if we are leading the region but we are working very hard to form a great cocktail culture. We know that Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Colombia are countries that have been working hard for a long time. Peru is trying to be on that list and the success of gastronomy is helping to make this possible.

Do economic shifts affect cocktail consumption? 

Nowadays cocktail culture impacts consumers in a positive way, where they know what they can get. It is worth paying extra for a better product. I do not want to say cocktail consumption is at an all-time high, it is just a focus in a market where people appreciate new ideas and trends about creating new flavours.

What are the challenges the city’s bartenders/bar owners face?

It is time to make a different kind of cocktail. All
the bars and restaurant are more worried about the food and not in the cocktail menu. Also, all the consumers are accustomed to Pisco Sours. If you want to offer something different you have to work hard to put the cocktail menu in the minds of the customers.

Who made the best cocktail you’ve had?

Possibly the best cocktail I’ve ever had was created by Aaron Diáz. It was bourbon macerated in bacon and cecina (meat that has been salted and dried by means of air, sun or smoke), a special type of Algarrobina ice (Algarrobina is a syrup made from the Black Carob tree), orange juice ice, tonic water and smoked with gunsmoke. Maybe this cocktail has more ingredients but I can’t tell – Aaron never tells us the secret.