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The Addictive Coca Pisco Sour and Where to Find It

Given Pisco's long history with SF (since at least the early 19th century), most of us here are familiar with the Pisco Sour, the national cocktail of Peru, which is where Pisco originates. We can get tasty Pisco Sours at many local outlets, from Fresca, Pisco Latin Lounge to Cantina. But La Mar, the SF outpost of one of Peru's most revered ceviche houses, has enjoyed special (and well-deserved) acclaim for its Pisco Sours since it opened last fall.

However, I just got back from a quick trip to Peru, and stopped in at the La Mar in Lima on Saturday to discover something even better than its Pisco Sour--its Coca Sour. Made with coca-leaf-infused Pisco, let's just say that one gets a joyous and crackling sensation from one of these that doesn't just come from the Pisco. On top of that, it's got a slightly darker green hue than a traditional Pisco Sour and a more complex flavor thanks to some herbal overtones. On every level, the cocktail was irresistible. And for some reason I was wanting a second one the moment I finished my first. Good thing we were quickly moving on . . .

Unfortunately, because the leaves are illegal in the US, the Coca Pisco Sour is not on the menu at La Mar SF (though the menus are very similar in every other way). Fortunately, I've learned that a Coca Sour is available at Fresca in Noe Valley, and it's made using Pisco infused with actual coca leaves. I haven't been over there yet to test the drink out myself, but it's now become a, um, high priority on my list. Cantina also has a delicious drink called the Coca Leaf Sour, which I can confirm is very, very good. However, it doesn't pack quite the same special umph as the Coca Sour in Lima. Maybe the leaves are better the closer you get to the source.