Bars in Peru have discovered a new frontier of native flavour. Hamish Smith visits Diego Maceda's Sastrería Martinez in Lima to find out more.
Sastrería Martinez feels like a classical, finely-executed speakeasy. You enter through a tailor shop – a tailor, tape measure in hand, sewing machine to his side, all completing the picture – but once in the bar, the drinks really sets this place apart. They have the framework of classics, but flavours from another planet.
Peru is different to most countries, with three distinct climatic regions. To be there is to be in reach of the coastal desert, the mountains and Amazon – each brings with it a distinct bounty of ingredients.
I caught up with owner Diego Maceda about his bar’s approach to exploring native ingredients.
Tell us about the bar’s approach
When we designed the menu we wanted to have the structure of classic cocktails, but with Peruvian ingredients. For our Penicillin we infused rum with katsuobushi, which is dehydrated tuna – Peru’s Japanese influence – we then mix with tumbo (banana passion fruit) as a citrus and then honey from the Andes infused with our local pink chilli pepper, some rocoto red pepper and a little local smoked agave spirits. It’s not a Penicillin by its ingredients but it may remind you of one.
How has the localism trend bled into the bar industry?
We’ve always had access to coastal and highland ingredients but in the past few years we’ve been able to source Amazonian fruit too. It started with the restaurant Amaz Miraflores, and its bartender, Luis Flores, going into the Amazon to find ingredients. Now many more bars and restaurants are exploring Amazon fruits – limón mandarino, mucílago de cacao, copoazu, macambo, limón sidra, pomarrosa açaí, acerola, limón rugoso, sacha tomate, aguaje, camu camu, taperiba – there are many more. It’s been a huge discovery for our bars.
What are these ingredients bringing to your drinks?
You now have a much wider spectrum of flavour. We can create citrus drinks, for example, with tumbo or camu camu which bring citrus power but in a different way. These ingredients are relatively new to us so we have to study them to see what’s going on.
Sanky, which looks like a kiwi but is very acidic, was a huge discovery for us. It has texture like a gum syrup and we use it for cordials – it’s amazing. My favourites fruits though are macambo, from the cocoa family, which tastes like cashew and I’m a real fan of tumbo, which looks like a banana passion fruit, is a cross between orange, kumquat and papaya and is sour.
From left: Bowler: Gin Intria, smoked pork Aperol, aguaymanto pollen syrup, IPA milk, camu camu and aguaymanto soda. Centre: Remus: Barsol moscatel pisco and chocolate bitters, distilled hazelnuts and toffee, chirimoya-infused rosolio, Peruvian lemon verbena hydrosol, macambo bitters. Right: Stork Club: Don Julio infusion, Rinomatto Rosso, amarillo lemon, lucuma, red tuna (prickly pear) foam
What’s the reception been like?
Using these unknown ingredients is a way to make us unique as a bar scene – people here in Peru are discovering their own ingredients and realising how lucky they are. It’s also a way to help small producers from across Peru. Now more people are using these fruits and ingredients, production has grown and supply has become easier.
Before, you had to go straight to the local jungle community to source these fruits and you had no idea when they would arrive. Now we can build menus around them.
How seasonal are these fruits?
Most of the jungle fruit we receive twice a year, the highlands ingredients two or three times and along the coastal regions, it’s more consistent supply. For some ingredients we can find there are multiple harvests. For example, blueberries grow in six different areas in Peru so are year-round. For the seasonal ingredients we process them in our lab downstairs, where we make pulps that we freeze, and we also make shrubs. We have a giro-vap too – we make our own chocolate-flavoured pisco infusion, using local Barsol pisco and local cacao.
Do you use Peruvian spirits too?
We use international brands but we also include all of the Peruvian spirits available. We have piscos, of course, but also Peruvian vermouth, Andean potato vodka, local agave spirit, gin from Cuzco in the highlands, rums and whisky. We make our Old Fashioned with Black Whisky – a corn whisky which won best whiskey at the New York World Spirits Competition.