Otis Florence, Campo de Encanto Pisco Global Ambassador and Assistant Blender has a series of highly acclaimed bars to his name. He started in bartending career in Cantina, a San Francisco institution then moved to NYC to work on the opening of Pouring Ribbons. In 2013, he became Assistant Blender for Campo de Encanto and more recently, joined Attaboy with Sam Ross and Michael McIlroy.
Otis Florence, Campo de Encanto Pisco
He talks about the resurgence of Pisco, Campo de Encanto Pisco single grape varietals, and how Pisco fits into current cocktail trends.
1. Campo de Encanto Pisco is referred to as the Pisco “for bartenders, by bartenders”. How did that come about?
The first time I heard it used, it was in reference to Encanto at Cantina by the Master Blender, Duggan McDonnell while he was behind the stick. It was his inspiration that put it together and the bartenders’ need that started the entire “for bartenders, by bartenders”.
2. What does your role as assistant blender for Campo de Encanto Pisco entail?
It entails going to Peru twice a year, typically for 4 to 5 days to taste the previous year’s harvests and to construct the next year’s blend. It also involves hands-on work such as transferring liquids between tanks, dealing with pumps. We’re a very small team so we’re hands on.
3. Encanto Pisco produces two single grape varieties, Quebranta and Moscatel. What makes them so special?
They are the best of the best from that year, a representation of each grape variety. They highlight key elements of the Grand & Noble which is a blend of five Pisco grapes, also known as Acholado. Whenever you put each of them together in a separate glass, you find how different each grape can be.
Quebranta is a non-aromatic grape variety, making up 70% of the Grand & Noble. Not much on the nose, the bass player of the band. Dark, spice, almost woody. Definite cacao nibs on the finish. Moscatel is an aromatic grape variety, a “pretty lady” with jasmine, bergamot and white flowers with some salinity and grapefruit mid palate. If you taste the Grand & Noble, then these two varieties, then go back to the Grand & Noble, you can definitely see the roles played by the Quebranta and Moscatel.
The best thing about single varietals is that you can use them whichever way you like. They can be a modifier or the main spirit. There isn’t an ingredient that they’ve met that they haven’t liked.
4. Tell us a little about Campo de Encanto Barkeep’s Whimsy*.
Encanto is about community so we wanted to expand our line and share the blending process with bartenders around the world so we included them in what we’re doing. Barkeep’s Whimsy is a blend of the same grape types as the Grand & Noble but with more pronounced Torontel, an aromatic grape varietal.
* Not available in Australia
5. What are some of your favourite Pisco cocktails?
Some of my favourites are those that redefine people’s perceptions of Pisco. Pisco Sour is popular now and the Pisco Punch is rising in popularity. Both are shaken cocktails. I like to put forward offerings of stirred cocktails. Use it in a Martinez with Quebrantra, in a Sazerac with Moscatel, El Capitan with Moscatel, and in a Simple Martini with Moscatel.
6. Aside from the Pisco Sour, what are some simple cocktail recipes that a consumer can make at home?
Pisco with Goslings ginger beer with slice of lime. El Capitan, equal parts of Pisco and Sweet Vermouth with Angostura Bitters. Classic Martini, 2:1 ratio, with Pisco Moscatel with a Bianco or dry style of vermouth – these are a combination of grapes so, they’re going to get along.
7. Pisco is experiencing a resurgence in certain parts of the world. How has Pisco evolved over the last few years?
Pisco started fairly unknown and the reception varies in different parts of the world. Countries that understand wine understand Pisco, like Australia. On the production side, you see more modern practices employed by master distillers and more modern practices in blending. It’s not too far a stray from classics but with minor variations with modern understandings.
8. To what factors do you attribute the rise in the popularity?
It’s following the culinary world. Peruvian food is permeating around the world and with that, Pisco is introduced. London is a popular market, a tie to how popular sherry was and their embracement of different cultures. Another place is south-east Asia, there’s a move towards clear spirits. Also when top bartenders move countries to run bar programs, it migrates with them.
9. Where does the Pisco category fit into current cocktail trends?
What I find very interesting is how empowering Pisco can be for bartenders. Craft cocktails are a growing worldwide phenomenon. We see ideas overlap when it comes to spirits. With the Pisco resurgence, they can be the first to come with certain recipes. It’s a way for bartenders to put their unique stamp on it.
10. What can we expect for the Pisco category in the near future?
Once education reaches a certain level and the mystery is removed, the Pisco category will be wildly popular as another clear spirit alternative that doesn’t have any overbearing notes.
11. Any closing comments?
For the people curious on where Pisco stands on a cocktail menu and its relevancy, I say look at all the Tales of the Cocktail nominations for best bars – every single one has a Pisco cocktail. They’re the leaders of the industry around the world and that’s a huge endorsement for the category.
In collaboration with Vanguard Luxury Brands, Distributors of Campo de Encanto Pisco in Australia.
Photo by Cocktails & Bars – © Copyright: All rights reserved.