Knocking back a glass of Pisco Punch is a boozy part of San Francisco’s history. This potent cocktail traces back to the 1890s, when a bartender named Duncan Nicol invented it in SF. This recipe, adapted from San Francisco bartender and Small Hand Foods proprietor Jennifer Colliau, is an easy three-ingredient drink to mix: Simply shake pisco, lemon juice, and pineapple gum syrup together and serve with a pineapple wedge if you’re feeling fancy. The pineapple gum syrup, made by steeping fruit in a sugar-water syrup thickened with gum arabic, softens the boozy pisco kick for a smoother drinking experience, plus gives the cocktail a little extra body.

What to buy: You can purchase pineapple gum syrup at well-stocked liquor stores or online. Colliau’s Small Hand Foods brand is excellent.

Pisco is a brandy distilled from South American white Muscat grapes. It can be found at well-stocked liquor stores or online.

This recipe was featured as part of our Drinks from San Francisco’s Sleazy Past.

  • Yields: 12 drinks
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Total: 10 mins, plus 3 hrs chilling time 
  • Active: 10 mins 

Ingredients (5)

  • 1 (750-milliliter) bottle pisco
  • 10 ounces pineapple gum syrup
  • 9 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 7 medium lemons)
  • Ice, for serving
  • 12 small fresh pineapple wedges, for garnish


  1. Combine the pisco, pineapple gum syrup, and lemon juice in a 2-quart container. Refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours.
  2. Before serving, stir to recombine the mixture. Serve over ice and garnish with a pineapple wedge.

Photo by Katerina Beduh/Shutterstock.