El Capitán Cocktail – A Pisco Manhattan

Think manhattan with a twist? The El Capitán Cocktail is Peru’s version of a pisco manhattan. Pisco, of course, is the star ingredient. This sophisticated sipper splits the vermouth between sweet and dry “perfect” style, and gets finished with a generous amount of the traditional angostura bitters and an optional orange and cherry garnish!

A single El Capitan/Pisco Manhattan in a coupe glass.

👩🏻‍🍳 Tamara Talks – About the El Capitán Cocktail

The Museo Del Pisco is one of our first stops when we arrive in Cuzco, Peru. Their bartenders are masters of a plethora of pisco cocktails, both traditional and non-traditional. I do love pisco sours and chilcanos (both traditional Peruvian cocktails), but with roughly a month in Peru (most years), I need other options. In 2017, our first trip to Peru, I had my first capitán cocktail at the recommendation of one of the outstanding bartenders. It is now my “go to” cocktail when it’s on the menu!

A pisco manhattan in a martini glass with olives on a wood tray.
El Capitán at the Museo Del Pisco in Cuzco, Peru

This pisco vermouth cocktail is essentially a pisco manhattan (variant). This 3 (or 4) ingredient cocktail requires pisco, sweet and/or dry vermouth, and angostura bitters. It is stirred, not shaken, and takes 2-3 minutes to make!

I don’t love sweet or acidic cocktails, and the capitán is neither. Pisco sours are well-balanced with acidity, but they’re still sweet IMHO. Additionally, who wants to drink the same drink for a month? Confession: I love manhattans (yes, it’s okay to not capitalize “manhattan”). While most recipes I’ve found for the capitán specify a 1:1 ratio of pisco to sweet vermouth, my preference is to put the pisco in the spotlight. A typical whiskey manhattan is a 2:1 ratio of whiskey to vermouth, but I prefer a 2:1 ratio of pisco to vermouth. I split the vermouth between the sweet and the dry vermouth in the style of the “perfect” manhattan. While it is a great cocktail, “perfect” refers to evenly split sweet and dry vermouth!😁

💗 What I love About this Pisco Manhattan

  • El Capitán is not sweet.
  • It requires only 3-4 ingredients depending on whether you want a “perfect” version or a standard cocktail. A “perfect” version splits the vermouth 50/50 between red vermouth (sweet) and white vermouth (dry), resulting in a drier pisco cocktail.
  • It’s quick. You can make this cocktail in just a couple of minutes!
  • It’s flexible. Dress it up or down with garnishes or not. I use this channel knife to make a twist, and wrap a long piece around a couple of cherries using a cocktail pick.

📋 Cocktail Ingredients

Ingredients for the pisco vermouth cocktail: Red and white vermouth, pisco, and angostura bitters.
  • pisco – Don’t worry about buying a “top shelf” pisco. However, you do want a Peruvian pisco. Chilean pisco does not have the same restrictions and methods as Peru, and I cannot vouch for how it would taste in this cocktail.
  • vermouth – I use a 50/50 ratio of sweet to dry vermouth because I prefer a very dry cocktail. If you’re not a fan of bone dry cocktails, or you’re not sure, I suggest using all sweet vermouth.
  • bitters – The traditional bitters for the el capitán cocktail are aromatic bitters. Orange bitters are a good substitute.
  • garnish – Garnishes are totally optional. In Peru, the capitán often gets a cocktail olive. While I love olives, I don’t love them in this cocktail. On photo day, I chose to use my channel knife to make long strips of orange peel and wrap them around cherries. I used cocktail picks to hold them together. If you prefer to keep it really simple, do a rustic twist or skewer a couple of good cherries.

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🔪 Instructions

Step 1 - Gather ingredients, and prepare any garnishes.
A channel knife,
  • Prep any garnishes – Whether you want to copy my garnishes or not, you will want to have garnishes at the ready. You want to serve this pisco vermouth cocktail cold. I used a channel knife to cut long swaths of orange peel, then twisted it around really good cocktail cherries. Don’t use the hot pink ones!
The ingredients for the pisco vermouth cocktail in a shaker with strainer, bar spoon, and jigger.
Stirred and strained not shaken!
  • Make the cocktail – Fill a shaker half-full with ice. Add the pisco and vermouth to the shaker. Stir vigorously. Strain into coupe glasses.
2 El Capitan cocktails in coupe glasses with orange and cherry garnishes.
  • Finish the cocktail – Add a generous few shakes of angostura bitters to the cocktail. Garnish as desired and enjoy!

What kind of pisco is best for this pisco cocktail?

Formerly Pisco Porton – now Caravedo – is the most widely available pisco in the US. It is very good, and somewhat expensive. We always bring home a few bottles of pisco from Peru, and they’re all good in this cocktail. On photo day, we had a bottle of Tabernero Pisco Puro Italia, and it is very good. Avoid Chilean piscos for this pisco vermouth cocktail, as they’re a completely different spirit, and do not taste the same. I am not a fan of Chilean piscos. See Pisco: A Complete Guide to the Brandy From South America for more information.

What kind of vermouth should I use?

I don’t keep expensive vermouth on hand, but I do use a decent vermouth. The Noilly Prat shown in the photo above is a solid, French brand. Given the simplicity of this cocktail recipe, quality ingredients play an important role. By all means try it with a high-quality vermouth if you wish! See What is Vermouth? for more information.

💭 Tips

We usually shake cocktails, but a classic manhattan is stirred. I believe stirring this pisco vermouth cocktail is preferable. Stirring keeps the cocktail from becoming cloudy and minimizes the dilution of the components by the ice.

Pisco is only now becoming widely available in the US, and we’re pretty excited about that! I hope to encourage you to try pisco if you have not.

Signature in red and green with chiles and limes. Healthyish Latin cuisine.

2 pisco manhattans in coupe glasses.

El Capitán – A Pisco Manhattan

A riff on the manhattan – pisco, sweet and dry vermouth, and angostura bitters – stirred (not shaken) served in a cocktail coupe with your preferred garnish!
5 from 3 votes

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Prep Time 3 minutes
Total Time 3 minutes
Course Beverages
Cuisine Peruvian
Servings 1 cocktail
Calories 214 kcal

Ingredients
  

Standard El Capitán

Mark-Sized El Capitán

Instructions

  • Gather ingredients, and make garnishes if you're garnishing your cocktails.
  • Fill a shaker half-full with ice. Add the pisco and vermouth to the shaker. Stir vigorously. Strain into coupe glasses.
  • Add a generous few shakes of angostura bitters to the cocktail. Garnish as desired and enjoy!

Notes

  • Vermouth – I highly recommend half sweet and half dry vermouth. I like dry cocktails. Feel free to do just sweet vermouth. I have not tried it with just dry vermouth.
Calories are based on a standard sized cocktail with 2 ounces of Pisco Porton, 1/2 ounce of dry vermouth, 1/2 ounce of sweet vermouth, and 3 shakes of bitters.

Nutrition

Calories: 214kcal

NOTE: Macronutrients are an approximation only using unbranded ingredients and MyFitnessPal.com. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and/or star rating! Email us with any questions: tamara@beyondmeresustenance.com

🍸More Pisco Cocktails

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2 Comments

  1. We love dry cocktails too. This sophisticated el captain cocktail is sure to be a hit this weekend. Love your beautiful garnishes too!