Guillermo Toro-Lira is pretty much obsessed. It's no coincidence that the Peruvian-born, self-styled “cocktail historian” once wrote a novel about a couple who were (surprise) obsessed with sussing out the original formula for Pisco Punch, the indigenous SF cocktail made with the Peruvian brandy pisco. Three years ago, Toro-Lira traded in life as an electrical engineer in Silicon Valley for what he calls a “long sabbatical” researching Peru's historical influence on Northern California. It took him straight to Pisco Punch.
The 19th-century bartender Duncan Nichol invented the pineapple-flavored guzzler at the Bank Exchange (it stood where the Transamerica Pyramid now towers), a saloon that survived the Great Earthquake but perished with Prohibition in 1919. “It was very famous in San Francisco,” Toro-Lira told SFoodie. “In 1901, 1902, every visitor to the city had to taste it.” But it was Nichol's secret, especially the pineapple gum syrup on which the drink is based.