Learning to Make Ceviche and Pisco Sours with Lima Gourmet

Ceviche and Pisco Sours: we have Peru to thank for these two iconic South American creations, loved and consumed throughout the world. When they weren’t hauling giant granite boulders up mountains to build Machu Picchu, mastering the concept of tiered agriculture, and creating complex lunar and solar calendars, Peruvians somehow found the time to also invent Pisco and figure out how to chemically cook raw fish.  Makes you feel a bit lazy, doesn’t it? Luckily, we’ve found a way to compensate: learning how to make authentic Peruvian ceviche and Pisco Sours! Since Lima is such a foodie city, it seemed almost criminal to not take advantage of unique dining experiences (or at least that’s the excuse we used).  So during our visit to Lima, we were thrilled to discover Lima Gourmet’s classic Ceviche and Pisco Sour cooking class. In one short hour, we went from boring average Americans to masters of Peruvian cooking! I know, I know, you’re amazed. The change took us by surprise, too. Lima Gourmet’s class – ranked #1 in Lima with a perfect score on Trip Advisor –  is fun, easy, and affordable: we think it’s an absolute must-do when visiting Lima.

Ceviche and Pisco Sours are the two most iconic (& delicious) Peruvian foods. We learned how to make them both with Lima Gourmet in Peru's most foodie city, Lima!
Making Pisco Sours with Lima Gourmet in Lima, Peru!
Delicately pouring our Pisco Sours into our expertly chilled glasses like the pros we now are.

Learning About Pisco

The class is hosted by the energetic and friendly Silvia. We were joined by an Australian couple who were halfway through one of Lima Gourmet’s day-long food tours: they had already visited a coffee shop and a mercado, and would soon be dashing off to another restaurant after casually learning to make ceviche and Pisco Sours. Impressive. We stifled our jealousy and tried to focus on the task at hand: sampling the three shots of Pisco sitting in front of us at the bar.

Cinnamon infused Pisco, a Peruvian liquor. We learned how to make Pisco Sours in a cooking class hosted by Lima Gourmet in Lima, Peru.
The best kinds of classes involve shots. Like these shots of cinnamon infused Peruvian Pisco! We studiously took 3 educational shots of Pisco during our Lima Gourmet cooking class.

As Silvia filled us in on the nuances of Pisco fermentation and grape variety, we ooh’ed and aah’ed knowledgeably while quietly getting our Pisco buzz on. If you’ve never had Pisco, it’s almost exactly like Italian Grappa. The only difference between Pisco and Grappa is that Pisco uses only the juice from the grapes, while Grappa is fermented along with its pulp, seeds and stems. If you like Grappa, you’ll love Pisco. Like other types of brandy, Pisco tastes sweet and a lot smoother than you’d expect for 80-proof liquor. (And this is coming from someone who makes a face when even smelling straight alcohol!) Pisco is at its shining best when mixed into a Pisco Sour.

Pisco Sours are the closest thing possible to being the delicious health food drink of the cocktail world. Topped with a protein-rich foamed egg-white, they’re almost appropriate for a post-gym smoothie (we can dream, right?). They’re made with simple syrup, lime, egg white, and of course Pisco, and traditionally garnished with a cute little dot of angostura bitters. They’re surprisingly easy to get right, once you know the tricks. And Silvia, accompanied by a bartender, filled us on on all of the tricks.

Learning how to make the Peruvian classic cocktail Pisco Sour with Lima Gourmet in Lima, Peru!
Just two masters of the classic Peruvian Pisco Sour cocktail, NBD

Learning How to Make Pisco Sours

Once we’d finished delicately shooting our three Pisco tasters and were all feeling a little more comfortable, the spotlight was on us: Jeremy and I volunteered to demonstrate the creation our very first Pisco sour!

Of the two of us, Jeremy has always been the bartender. Whether it was mixing up themed 90’s drinks at his 25th birthday party or creating custom cocktails for our wedding, he’s always been the bigger lush (not even mad though, our wedding cocktails were amazing). But even in my naivete, I have to admit: making a Pisco Sour was surprisingly easy. The hardest part was foaming the egg white, and – because I am hopelessly clumsy – pouring the drink into the glass without spilling it everywhere. All in all, I have to say that the next time I feel like impressing my friends with my worldly travel skills, I’m totally whipping up a Pisco Sour. Plus, you guys, it’s like a health drink. So good for you.

Carefully making a Pisco Sour in our cooking class with Lima Gourmet in Lima, Peru.
My face like “how are you 3 shots in and you’re not spilling this everywhere?!” Clearly, there’s a reason Jeremy is the one who pours things in our relationship.

Our Pisco Sours were out of this world delicious. We got to watch the Australian couple mix up their own Pisco Sours while we sipped the boozy fermented fruits of our labor. And then, it was time for ceviche.

How to Make Peruvian Ceviche

If you’ve never eaten Peruvian ceviche, you’ll be forgiven for misunderstanding how good it is. I’ve never had decent ceviche in the United States, and I was under the impression that ceviche was some sort of cold tomatoey seafood soup thing. Which it’s not. At all. Seriously America, why do you have to ruin everything? Peruvian ceviche is bright, fresh, and tangy. Psst: here’s a post to help you hunt down all the best ceviche in Lima.

The shining star of the dish – aside from the fresh fish, which is always caught in the morning and never prepared later than lunchtime – is Tiger’s Milk, the citrussy marinade that cures the fish and gives ceviche its delicious flavors. Tiger’s Milk is a dish in its own right: in many Peruvian restaurants, you can order a shot of Tiger’s Milk on it’s own. It’s that good.  The secret of Lima Gourmet’s Tiger’s Milk is a Secret Sauce. Obviously, you have to take the class to learn the recipe for the Secret Sauce, because it’s Secret, but what I can tell you is that it’s super good and I’m going to be using it as my new favorite condiment on literally everything.

Learning to make Peruvian ceviche with Lima Gourmet in Lima, Peru
Look at this perfectly composed forkful of fresh Peruvian ceviche. Restaurant-worthy, right? Why yes, I did make it, thank you for asking. So sweet.

As Silvia translated, a chef walked us through the step by step process of creating our ceviche. Truth be told, ceviche is a lot harder to master than Pisco Sour. But after a lot of trial and error, sneaking tastes, and adding pinches of salt and dashes of lime juice, Jeremy and I each finally achieved something that was up to our high standards. Our creations actually tasted like the ceviche we’ve been eating for the past 2 months all over Peru! I was so proud. And still a little Pisco drunk, if we’re being honest.

The most important part of any dish is presentation, and Silvia walked us through the steps: make a mound of your fresh ceviche; drizzle it with Tiger’s Milk; then, delicately border it with sweet potato and corn; and finally, garnish with onion and chili. My plate looked like a masterpiece. Jeremy’s tasted a lot better than it looked, which is why all of our pictures are of my beautiful creation. You’re welcome, world.

Peruvian Ceviche made in a cooking class with Lima Gourmet in Lima, Peru!
Look at this ceviche composition. Perfectly balanced. If this was a cooking show, Gordon Ramsey would be like “not terrible, actually.”

All finished with learning things, we were finally allowed to stuff our faces with delicious ceviche. Bonus: we even got to eat the chef’s creation. Score! We’re already planning to impress our family with our new cooking skills (and spiffy Lima Gourmet aprons) when we visit home for Thanksgiving. Learning how to make ceviche and Pisco Sours with Lima Gourmet was the perfect way to end our 2-month long visit to Peru.

About Lima Gourmet’s Food Tours and Classes

Lima Gourmet is the top ranked food & drink tour operator in Lima. In addition to the budget-friendly Ceviche & Pisco Sour class, they also offer both day and evening food tours, where you’ll eat and drink a lot, learn all about Lima while you explore the top foodie destination in the world… oh, AND become a master of Pisco Sour and ceviche!

Website and Tour Information: http://www.limagourmetcompany.com/

Disclaimer: We attended this cooking class as the guests of Lima Gourmet. All opinions are our own.

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15 Comment

  1. ROFL! “The best classes involve shots.” Best line in a blog post ever! Sounds like a fun class. Will definitely have to book a class if/when I make it to Lima.

    1. Lia says: Reply

      Absolutely! We had such a blast! You know you’re an adult when you go to class – for WORK! – and take a few shots, right? Hehe!

  2. This sounds like so much fun. I (Ed) love cooking. I was an assistant / prep cook at a cooking school in Tucson so I could take all the free classes I wanted. One of my favorite classes was the food and wine tour through South America. Jenn, is perfectly happy to have me cook (as long as I clean the kitchen) so long as it isn’t fish. Alas, my ceviche and fish stew recipes have good unmade for quite some time now.

    I particularly liked how this class allowed you to gain a deeper understanding of Peru. You have eaten this dish for months now but never had learned the secret of the sauce until you got to make it yourself. Bravo for letting the culture flow over you. Have you ever read Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel? It describes everything that South America had working against it with the lack of navigable rivers, north/south running land that traverses way too many climate zones and almost no domesticated/ able animals save llamas. Still, they were able to master so much. Truly amazing when you think about it.

    1. Lia says: Reply

      Thanks for such a thoughtful comment, Ed! Jeremy is usually the cook for us too… but I love when he makes fish 🙂

      We read Guns, Germs, and Steel in high school and it was one of my favorite books. Puts everything in a whole new light. I have a soft spot for non-fiction. If you liked Jared Diamond you’ll definitely like the book I’ve been reading throughout our trip to South America. It’s called 1491 – there’s a link to it in the sidebar. It’s an in-depth gathering of all the latest research about the history of the indigenous peoples of North and South America, which turns everything we learned in school on its head. No peaceful nomadic tribes barely laying a finger on the landscape. Instead, the book paints a picture of incredible advanced, hugely populated peoples who were actively shaping their earth using fire, water, and incredibly advanced engineering (The likes of which we saw all over Peru, from their ingenious terrace farming to the still-standing ruins of Machu Picchu et al). There’s even a theory that the Amazon rainforest is actually an giant overrun farm! It’s so fascinating to learn how incredibly advanced these people are – and yet we had no idea, because the conquistadors destroyed most of what they found to make it look like they had conquered a savage land full of idiots. According to 1491, conquistadors barely conquered anything – they arrived in the middle of a bad smallpox episode and conquered a tiny percentage of a once great and powerful population, who barely fought back because they didn’t find the conquistadors threatening and were far more concerned about being killed off by disease! Anyway, it’s a really interesting book and I highly recommend it!

  3. carla says: Reply

    Would be interesting to sample a taste of the Peruvian ceviche. I think it has a counterpart here in the Philippines, the “kinilaw”. A fresh catch of the day and marinated in lemon and vinegar. Would love to sample the ceviche when I travel to Peru soon!

    1. Lia says: Reply

      Yummm that sounds delicious! If you like that you’ll definitely enjoy ceviche. It’s all over Peru, so make sure to try some while you’re there!

  4. LOVED both Pisco Sour and Peruvian ceviche when we were in Lima last year, though we hit the restaurant scene pretty hard, we didn’t think to book in for a class! Will have to head back – glad to hear you had a fabulous time!

  5. hcura says: Reply

    I’ve had Ceviche and it’s pretty good but haven’t tried cooking it myself. Need to try Pisco Sour soon.

    This seems like a fun and interesting tour!

  6. Carolina Colborn says: Reply

    Shots do make the best classes! Never heard of pisco but ceviche is like our kinilaw in Manila!!!

  7. I love Pisco Sour, and taking a cooking class is a great way to learn how to appreciate such a national drink. Our son visited Peru a few years back, and returned with a love of Peruvian food and drink. Though he was too young for Pisco Sours back then, he did steal a taste from his grandmother!

  8. Nancy says: Reply

    It sounds like so much fun! I have tasted Pisco Sourss but had no idea how they were made. Very cool – thanks for sharing

  9. Amazing discovery! Machu Picchu is so much in the limelight that I would have missed this! Definitely have to remember it. and haha! funnily spot-on on the Gordon Ramsey one

    1. Lia says: Reply

      Lima is often overlooked and insulted but honestly, it was by far our favorite place to visit in Peru! They have such amazing food! And I’m glad you appreciated my Gordon Ramsey reference 😛 I love him so…

  10. When I was in Lima, I wasn’t too big a fan of pisco sours. But the ceviche… I could eat that all day! It’s so cool that you got to learn how to make it for yourselves now!

  11. That looks like so much fun!

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