Pisco, a type of brandy made from grapes in both Peru and Chile, was readily available — and healthily consumed — in San Francisco during the California Gold Rush of 1849. One hub for drinking it: The Bank Exchange Saloon, which is cited as the birthplace of Pisco Punch.
The Saloon is no more, having stood on the famed Montgomery Block where the Transamerica building stands today, but now Pisco Punch graces cocktail menus across town and the country as pisco the spirit has seen a recent renaissance. But for a while there, pisco was nearly forgotten. Pisco Punch: A Cocktail Comeback Story tells that tale, exploring the political climate that imperiled the spirit and its makers in Peru, where a dictatorship reigned from 1968 to 1975.
The 75-minute film is from director Alan Knopf, his debut, and it's made by Anchor Distilling, where Knopf is Executive Director of Education. The film also ties into Anchor's own aims for pisco world domination: It imports authentic Peruvian pisco from the brand BarSol of Bodega San Isidro in the Ica Valley region of PeruIt. (Sidebar: Serious Eats rounded up 10 must-try piscos a while back, and that list also includes San Francisco-founded brand Campo de Encanto, which has an image of the Bank Exchange on the inside of its label.)
Pisco Punch: A Cocktail Comeback Story premiered at the Napa Valley Film Festival this month. It will be streaming online next year.