I don’t know if you all remember this, but in the summer of 2007 a city in the Peruvian desert called Ica was partially destroyed by an earthquake—I have to say, though, when Ica is not being destroyed by an earthquake, it is a fantastic place to visit. Luckily I was there about a week before the earth started shaking so I got to enjoy some delicious Peruvian desert food and weather without being buried by rubble—always something I try my best to avoid while on vacation.
Ica is not really a destination place. It’s not particularly beautiful, kind of a hot and crowded city packed as full as it can get with motorcycles and orange sellers, but it is cheap, the people are nice, and it is close to several bodegas, or Peruvian wineries. We actually stayed in a hotel rather than pitching the tent outside somewhere, a rare luxury for us, and it was about $9 a night for a large double with hot showers, a TV, and free porn. It was an easy sell. It was twice as much as the hotel next door, but that one didn’t have glass in the windows or running water, so really, a no-brainer.
There are a number of wineries close by, so oenologists and alcoholics will be interested to learn about Peru’s wine- and spirit-making processes. It’s easy to take a tour of one; a cab from Ica will cost a couple soles or you can just hitchhike, but bear in mind the driver will probably ask for a little money for the trouble. I’m sure that any of the bodegas are worth seeing, but we went to Bodega San Martin. There’s a free tour and they walk you through the whole process. According to my friend, who is a sommelier, the way they make the wine is unique to Peru: among other things, the wine is aged in small clay vessels rather than large wooden or steel barrels, and the end product is surprisingly sweet. It was too sweet for me, so I moved right on to pisco, which is just distilled wine, kind of like an un-aged brandy. I’m not sure if our waitress was new or just generous but she served me a full pouring of this 80 proof liquor in a large wine glass so I don’t really remember much about getting back into town, but back at the hotel I found that I was carrying a whole bottle of it. At first I debated the wisdom of carrying a fifth of liquor in a heavy glass bottle on a backpacking trip in the wilderness of Peru, but it worked out for the best in the end: we found ourselves in the back of a vegetable truck with some hostile locals while hitchhiking to Machu Picchu and they were pacified only by my alcohol and cigarettes.
In fact I recommend keeping a healthy supply of both at all times in case of an emergency, whether you need it to sweeten deals with savvy bargainers or if you just have one of those days and really need to get your drink on.
SPEAKING OF WHICH: Peru’s claim-to-fame in the world of drinking is their Pisco Sour, a fine contribution to the cocktail canon whose fame is inhibited only by the fact that no one ever has pisco. Delicious and refreshing, it is sure to liven nights and elevate the spirit.
1oz lime juice
some sugar or simple syrup
1/2 egg white
Shake it vigorously with ice, and then party!
By: Ben Britz