Resist the urge to call it “The Capitán” — it’s “El Capitán,” and for years, it was the go-to cocktail for cavalry captains who patrolled Peru’s Puno mountains in the early 1900s. In simple terms, El Capitán is a Manhattan made with pisco and garnished with an olive. However, as is so often the case, this drink is also so much more than that. El Capitán is a snapshot of Peruvian history and a celebration of the country’s iconic national spirit.

Unlike mezcal and tequila, there isn’t a governing body regulating pisco production, so there’s an air of mystery around it, particularly regarding exactly what grapes go into it. Regardless, as our guest today explains, there’s very little bad pisco out there on the market, and a quality bottle can cost as little as $20. Its low price point is all the more reason for cocktail culture to rediscover the spirit and give it a new life. Luckily, El Capitán is fighting the good fight as a rallying cry to usher pisco into the modern cocktail zeitgeist. The best part? It’s just as easy to make as it is delicious.

Today on the “Cocktail College” podcast, host Tim McKirdy is joined by Chicago-based Mike Ryan, the corporate director for Acurio International, to discuss El Capitán. The two break down pisco (from Puro to Acholado), the evolution of El Capitán, and its rotating cast of garnishes. Tune in for more.

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Mike Ryan’s El Capitán Recipe


  • 2 ounces Acholado Pisco
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Garnish: green olive


  1. Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice.
  2. Stir until chilled.
  3. Strain into a chilled coupe glass.
  4. Garnish with a green olive.