How a Mining Boom Led a Mormon Florist to Invent the Pisco Sour

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How a Mining Boom Led a Mormon Florist to Invent the Pisco Sour

Once a florist in Utah, Victor V. Morris lived half his life in Peru and opened a famous bar. On the first Saturday of February, Peruvians raise a glass to their country’s most well-known cocktail: the Pisco Sour. Since 2003, this simple twist on the classic Whiskey Sour has had its own national holiday. But while the drink evokes a sense of pride in Peru, the Pisco Sour is largely considered the invention of an unlikely figure: a Mormon man from Salt Lake City named Victor V. Morris. The curious path that led Morris from Utah to the Peruvian Andes began not in spirits but in flowers. Born into a large and well-respected Welsh Mormon family, Morris co-ran a floral shop with two of his brothers. But tragedy struck in 1900, when Morris’s older brother, Burton, got into a fight while on a date and was killed by two bullets through his heart . Worse, the assailant was acquitted in a high-profile case after pleading self-defense. An outraged Morris told a reporter that the legislature “should immediately repeal the law making murder an offense in Utah and thus save the State the expense of going to trial.” After Burton’s death, Morris managed the flower shop for a few more years before selling the business to take a clerical position with a local railroad company. He may have stayed in this position and never left the United States if not for the business venture of a well-known Salt Lake City resident named A.W. McCune. A powerful figure, McCune had transformed the capital’s streetcar system from wagons to electric cars and run for both Mayor and Senate. He owned the Salt Lake Herald and half the Utah Power Company, and shortly after the turn of the century, McCune embarked on a massive Peruvian mining endeavor funded by Gilded Age robber barons including J.P. Morgan, Henry Clay Frick, and the Hearsts. A view across to Cerro de Pasco, 1854. In the late 1800s, a scouting expedition led by McCune discovered old mines first excavated by Spanish colonists in the town of Cerro de Pasco. Until its liberation in 1820, the town had been a great source of riches for the Spanish. According to one local legend, the rocks around Cerro de Pasco’s campfires “wept silver.” McCune signed a mining agreement with the Peruvian government, and by 1902, McCune had broken ground. The project transformed Peru’s economy and kickstarted its mining industry. This gritty, turn of the century mining town would be the setting for the creation and popularization of Peru’s signature cocktail. Back in Salt Lake City, residents took note of McCune’s endeavors. The city was no stranger to the mining business, which was a vital source of its growth. Many residents joined McCune’s business venture, and, in 1902, Victor V. Morris travelled to the dusty, high-altitude city of Cerro de Pasco as one of the early arrivals from Utah to join the project. There, he worked on another of McCune’s extraordinary […]