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I left my heart in Pisco

Well, I've actually never been to the city of Pisco, in the Southern coast of Peru. But I have, many times, been around the grapes and the brandy that take their name from that place.

Pisco, in a way, is part of my identity. I wrote a story for the Sun Sentinel's Nov. 1 Food section, in which I explained my surprise at seeing my national drink featured in ritzy cocktails around town. We Peruvians are not often in the spotlight, but I think it's fitting that when we are, it's because of our booze.

If you're into soft liquor -- if there is such a thing -- you won't like the taste of this drink. It's often 80-proof, or 40% alcohol, and it's distilled in such a way that the flavors that remain are dry and sometimes bitter to the untrained tongue.

The city where pisco was born is a desert, near the hills where you'll find the Nazca lines. Half a country North of there is my father's hometown: snow-capped mountains with agricultural valleys nested next to cold-water beaches and treacherous sand dunes.

That's where my dad's older brother makes his own Pisco Murriel. I've only tried it once. It's not high-quality stuff. It's made in the "heartland," if you will. It's like Peruvian moonshine.

A friend once told me she visited Peru and in the slums near Pisco, she bought the spirit from a woman who made it at home, who filled a plastic soda bottle for her customer.

That's not the type of liquor you'll find in your fancy pisco cocktails here. The pisco here is dressed up and toned down for the American drinker. To be honest, I may prefer it that way. But please don't tell my dad.

Read the story and find some recipes here.

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