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El Dorado's Jerry Thomas Mystery Solved?

By Guillermo L. Toro-Lira - December 30, 2010

It is widely believed that "Professor" Jerry Thomas started his bar tending career in the El Dorado gambling house in San Francisco, after he had been lured to California by the Gold Rush of 1849. Also, that he had invented his Blue Blazer concoction there.

However, Thomas himself never mentioned that he had ever worked in that place and neither renowned cocktail historian David Wondrich—author of Imbibe!—nor this writer have been able to find any historical evidence or the slightest hint that Thomas ever worked at El Dorado during 1849, much less that he had invented the Blue Blazer there.

So where did these stories originate from? All points out to American author Herbert Asbury, who in 1928 wrote the introduction of a reprint of Thomas' 1862 masterpiece The Bon Vivant's Companion, or, How to Mix Drinks. In 1933, Asbury summarized his story in the erudite The Barbary Coast: An Informal History of San Francisco Underworld.

When describing El Dorado saloon, Asbury referred to Bayard Taylor (El Dorado or Adventures in the Path of Empire, 1850) and Frank Soulé's (The Annals of San Francisco, 1855). Soulé also provided an illustration of its interior (Figure 1). Asbury used their accounts and that illustration when he wrote the following in The Barbary Coast:

Originally El Dorado was a canvas tent, but the tent was soon replaced by a square room of rough boards, with a few small private booths partitioned off with muslim... At one end was a raised platform draped with bunting, flags, and colored steamers, from which an orchestra blared without cessation. At the other end was the bar, behind which were large mirrors of fine cut glass. [Here Asbury adds a footnote: At El Dorado, in 1849, began the career of America's greatest bartender—Professor Jerry Thomas, inventor of the Blue Blazer…]

It is telling that when describing El Dorado's bar area, Asbury pointed out that Thomas was its bartender and that he invented the Blue Blazer there. A close examination of Soulé’s illustration might reveal a clue that could explain the reason for Asbury's mysterious historical inference that has confounded cocktail historians for so long (Figure 2). Tending at the bar is a man shown mixing a drink with a posture closely resembling the preparation of Thomas' famed Blue Blazer (Figure 3).

It is understandable that Asbury, not being a pre-cocktail shaker era mixing technology scholar, might have assumed that the man depicted Jerry Thomas preparing a Blue Blazer—while in reality the illustration shows a typical bartender, mixing a drink using a typical technique of the day. The illustration was prepared in 1854 by the New York firm of Whitney, Jocelyn & Annin—a popular commission engravers of the time— and more than likely inspired by verbal accounts of Soulé and others.

Clarifying the legends from the history of the Pisco Sour

By Guillermo L. Toro-Lira - December 11, 2009

The objective of this article is to clarify certain aspects of the history of the Pisco Sour and its creator that are wrongly circulating in the internet, as well as in the written press and other publications, using the recently found visitors register of the Morris’ Bar of Lima as the primary historical source. The register was located by Michael "Mike" Morris, Victor Morris' grandson.

1. Birthplace of Victor Morris

Some sources indicate that Victor Morris was a Californian born in the city of Berkeley, close to San Francisco. In reality Morris was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and was a member of one of most prominent families of that city, at one time being one of his brothers the mayor of the city.

In 1903 Morris leaves Salt Lake City to travel to Peru to work as a cashier in the Cerro de Pasco Railway Company. Perhaps the confusion of his birthplace was because one of his sisters moves to California in 1907 and after marrying resides in Berkeley, city that Morris visits three times in 1923, 1924 and in 1925. In his trip of 1923, Morris also visits his relatives in Salt Lake City after twenty years of absence, event that was published in a local newspaper with the heading “Former Utahn In So. America Back for Visit.”

Finally, Morris clearly writes “Salt Lake City, Utah” as his home address in the visitor register, an evidence that is irrefutable.

2. Period of existence of the Morris’ Bar

The register indicates that the Morris’ Bar was inaugurated on the 1st of April of 1916, being its godfather the New Yorker Daniel C. Babbitt, a friend of Victor Morris since 1903. The last register entry is signed in February of 1929. Morris passes away on June 11 of the same year and, according to his obituary, the bar closes some months before when he enters into voluntary bankruptcy.

It is also known that in December of the same year Maria Vargas, Morris' wife, leaves Lima with her three children to San Francisco, California, after trying to collect some debts owed to Victor without any success.

Given the above evidences, it is concluded that the bar of Victor Morris opened it doors in 1916 and closed them in 1929 after a period of 13 years of operation, and not from 1915 to 1933 as some sources wrongly indicate.

3. Morris’ Bar bartenders

There is an erroneous notion that the bartenders of the Morris’ Bar were Alfonso Bregoye, Graciano Cabrera and Alberto Mezarina and that after the bar’s closing, they went to work to the Maury Hotel where they made the Pisco Sour famous. This issue can be unequivocally clarified because Morris made all his employees sign the bar’s registry. These are, with the date of employment in parenthesis:

Leonidas Arteta (1916), Augusto S. Rodriguez (1916), Hernán B. Bruijet (1919), Víctor H. Conde (1920), Alfonso G. Matos (1921), Rafael S. Vargas (1922), Mario Bruijet (1924) y Juan de Dios Mejía (1927).

The first two names agree with the memoirs of Luis Alberto Sanchez, who in his “Testimonio personal - Memorias de un peruano del siglo XX” published in 1969, indicates that the bartenders Augusto Rodriguez y Leonidas Cisneros Arteta were the ones that went to work to other bars after the closing of the Morris’ Bar. Sanchez also mentions that a bartender named Mario starts working at the Hotel Maury, where he prepares Pisco Sour. This Mario could well be the Mario Bruijet shown in the registry.

The information contained in the registry, as well as in Sanchez’ testimony, leads to the conclusion that neither Bregoye, nor Cabrera or Mezarina were bartenders at Victor Morris’s bar.

4. The Morris’ Bar and its clientele

Some sources have inferred that the Morris’ Bar was a simple saloon and relatively low class. However, almost 90% of the signatures contained in the registry are mainly from English-speaking foreign citizens. Among them, there are diplomats, miners, engineers, archaeologists, aviators, businessmen, lawyers, journalists, writers, tourists, and even sportsmen, some of them with their spouses.

Among them are: Emiliano Figueroa, ex-president of the Republic of Chile and its ambassador in Peru; Alfred Louis Kroeber, archaeologist from the University of California Berkeley who worked with Julio C. Tello; Roger W. Straus, a millionaire and president of board of directors of the American Smelting Company; Elmer Faucett, founder of the Faucett Airline Company; Richard Halliburton, writer and cultural ambassador of the U.S. to Peruvian president Augusto B. Leguía; Carlos Campo Rencoret, former general consul of Chile in India; José R. Lindley and son, makers of soda beverages and future creators of Inca Kola; John Lannes, ex-bartender of the Bank Exchange saloon in San Francisco, California; and among several others, Daniel Craig Babbitt, Morris’ Bar inauguration godfather, member of the board of directors of the Peru and London Bank, of the Backus & Johnson Mining Society, and of the clubs National, Lawn Tennis de la Exposicion, Casino of Chorrillos, Casino of Ancon, and Phoenix Club.

Among some noted Peruvians one can find: Roberto Pflucker, former owner of several mines in Cerro de Pasco; Alberto Brazzini, future president of the Peruvian National Mining and Petroleum Society; Rafael Larco Hoyle, founder of the Museum Rafael Larco Herrera; Juan Ramón Montero, the first aviator to fly from Lima to Pisco; Andres Alvarez Calderon Olavegoya, a member of a prominent British-Peruvian family; and Federico Antonio Pezet, diplomatic envoy of Peru to the U.S. in 1913, among others.

The presence of such distinguished individuals in the Morris’ Bar is proof that the bar was of an acceptably high social level for the people of the time.

5. The Morris’ Bar Pisco Sour recipe

Victor Morris Pisco Sour’s recipe has not been found, but it is assumed that it was a crude mix of Pisco with lime juice and sugar, as it was the whiskey sour of those days. The comments written in the visitors register sheds light on some important data. One, that Morris’s recipe was not static since an American frequent traveler wrote “the Pisco Sours keep getting better every trip,” implying thus an evolutionary process.

Another one, is the relatively high amount of positive compliments given to the Pisco Sours (a total of twenty six, three times more than to the whiskey sour). Is very unlikely that a simple mix of lime juice and sugar would have justified such amount of praise. By the other hand, it is not known if Morris used egg white or angostura bitters, but it is known that he used those two ingredients in other mixes.

The register shows that he served “silver fizz,” a popular concoction of those days that contained lemon juice, sugar, egg white, and soda water. Back then, the word “silver” indicated that the drink contained egg whites. Similarly, the term “cocktail,” which today is used to refer to any mix of liquor, it was before used only for drinks that had bitters in it, usually Angostura’s. The register shows that Morris served a “Pisco cocktail,” which proves he mixed Pisco with bitters.

By the other hand, Morris’ grandchildren remember that their father Richard P. Morris, Victor’s oldest son, prepared Pisco Sour with gum arabic. Many years ago, what today is called “gum syrup” was a syrup that contained gum arabic, thus its name. With the passing of time the gum arabic was removed but the syrup was still called the same.

As a conclusion, until the Morris’ Bar Pisco Sour recipe is found, it can not be inferred as it being "crude" with respect to today’s recipe. Given the limited historical data available, it could as well been the same.

6. Decadence of the Morris’ Bar

It has also been mentioned that the Morris’ Bar decayed because Victor Morris was a passionate gambler that ended wasting his fortune away. However, the visitor register does not contain any comment that could indicate that there was any type of gambling (dice, cards, roulette, etc) in its premises.

On the other hand, Morris’ obituary does indicate reasons for the demise mentioning that:

“... the Morris’ Bar prospered greatly for a number of years. Later the opening of the Hotel Bolivar, the Lima Country Club and other establishments diverted the large foreign trade from the Bar. For the past two or three years Mr. Morris had been in failing health.”

That is to say, it was the apparition of competition and Morris’ health which caused the demise of the bar and finally to its closing.

The Hotel Bolivar, located a short distance from the Morris’ Bar, was inaugurated on December of 1924 and the Hotel Lima Country Club on February of 1927.

Sometime in between 1923 and 1928, Morris decides to write a disparaging remark (“ladron”, thief) in the register at the side of the names of four of his bartenders . Although the reason for such action is not known, it must have been related to some type of material or intellectual theft, thus Morris found appropriate to make it noticed by the bar’s visitors. It has been speculated it was because those bartenders went to work to competitive bars.

7. The myth of the invention of Pisco Sour in Chile

In the mid-1980s, a newspaper article appeared in Chile that announced that the Pisco Sour was invented in 1872 in the city of Iquique, where an Englishman named Elliot Stubb mixed Pisco with lemon juice and sugar for the first time and named it that way.

That story has been recently refuted when it was found that the original historical source, the newspaper El Comercio de Iquique, was mentioning instead the alleged invention of the whiskey sour and not of the Pisco Sour. However, that story is also incorrect since whiskey sour existed in th U.S. before 1872, as shown for example in the Wisconsin newspaper Aukesha Plaindealer of January 4th, 1870, where it describes a person drinking a “whisky sour.”

The truth is that the oldest evidence of the word “Pisco Sour” that has been found in Chile, comes from Victor Morris himself when he published an advertisement of Lima’s Morris’ Bar in the weekly magazine South Pacific Mail of the port of Valparaiso in July of 1924.

The South Pacific Mail was an English language weekly magazine published by Nelson Rounsevell, a friend of Morris since the days they worked together in the mines of Cerro de Pasco.

The advertisement asks in large letters: “Have You Registered in Morris’ Bar LIMA?” Then it describes the bar’s register and how it could be of value to locate friends. Obviously, Morris was trying to attract the English speaking clientele that travelled between Chile and Peru. The ad mentions that the bar “has been noted for many years for its ‘Pisco Sours’.”

Incidentally, this Pisco Sour advertisement is the oldest that has been found and precedes by five years the one published by Cipriano Laos in 1929 in his directory Lima “La Ciudad de los Virreyes.”

Physical Description of the Morris’ Bar Visitors Register

The registry measures 23 inches wide, 12 inches high and 1-5/8 inches thick. It has a front cover of red leather and brown corduroy cloth with a label printed in gold ink that reads: MORRIS’ BAR VISITORS REGISTER. It has 82 signed pages for a total of more than 2,200 signatures. Each page has a total capacity of 27 signatures.

All the pages have the title of MORRIS’ BAR REGISTER in black ink and six primary vertical columns in red ink with the following titles in black ink: Registry Date; NAME; ARRIVED, which contains two sub-columns titled DATE and FROM; DEPARTED with two sub-columns titled DATE and FOR; HOME ADDRESS; and COMMENTS & REMARKS.

FIGURE: Advertisement published by the Morris' Bar in the South Pacific Mail of Valparaiso, Chile on July 1924, announcing the Bar Register and that it has been noted for many years for its "Pisco Sours." (click here to see figure)


Angeles C., César, Peruanidad del Pisco y la vendimia - Diccionario del Pisco, A.F.A. Editores Importadores, Lima, 2008.

Morris , Víctor V., Morris Bar Visitors Register, 1916-1929, Lima, Perú, the original registry is in possession of the Morris’ Family. (There is a a photographic copy edited and published by G. Toro-Lira in February, 2009, in possession of the Academia Peruana del Pisco (Peruvian Academy of Pisco)).

Sánchez, Luis A., Testimonio personal, memorias de un peruano del siglo XX; Capítulo XIV; Lima : Villasan, 1969-1976.

Schiaffino, José A., El origen del Pisco Sour, el Morris Bar, el Hotel Maury y el Gran Hotel Bolivar, Heralmol S.R.I., Lima, 2006.

Toro-Lira S., Guillermo L., “La vida y pasiones del padre del Pisco Sour”, Dionisos magazine, No. 64, March, 2008, Lima, Peru; (originally published as “La vida y pasiones de Víctor V. Morris, creador del Pisco Sour” in the webpage of the author in February, 2008, ).

Toro-Lira S., Guillermo L.; Morris , Michael P.; Morris, Donna M., “La vida y pasiones de Víctor V. Morris, creador del Pisco Sour - 2nda parte”, (Research article presented in a magister conference organized by the Academia Peruana del Pisco, February 2009; National Museum of Archeology, Anthropology and History of Peru, Pueblo Libre, Lima, Peru.)

Toro-Lira S., Guillermo L.; Morris , Michael P.; Morris, Donna M., “Análisis del registro de firmas del Morris’ Bar (1916-1929)”, (Research article presented in a magister conference organized by the Academia Peruana del Pisco, February 2009; National Museum of Archeology, Anthropology and History of Peru, Pueblo Libre, Lima, Peru.)

Original Source: Toro-Lira Stahl, Guillermo y Zapata Acha, Sergio. 2008. Tradición Exportadora Peruana del Pisco: Los Estados Unidos vs. Doscientas Botijas de Pisco. Boletín de Lima, N° 152. pp. 51-62. Lima, Peru. [Original written in Spanish, English translation follows]



By Guillermo L. Toro-Lira * & Sergio Zapata Acha ** - July, 2009

* Researcher of Peruvian relations in the history of California, resident of Sunnyvale, California; author of the book Wings of Cherubs.
** Director of the Instituto de Investigación-EPTH-USMP; author of Diccionario de Gastronomía Peruana Tradicional.


In the context of a documented legal event, this article contributes in illustrating the historical Peruvian exporting tradition of Pisco to California, principally during the second half of the 19th century; having as protagonists the grape brandy of Peru (pisco) on one side and the United States of America in the other. It also provides information about the characteristics of manufacturing and commercialization of the product in that era.


On the 26th of December of 1863 the Peruvian bark Mandarina dropped anchor in the port of San Francisco, California. It weighed 179 tons, had a crew of 13, and its captain was F. S. Rossi, as it appears registered in the The United States National Archives and Records Administration (NARA, 1863). The Mandarina had sailed from the port of Callao, Peru, on October 27, 1863 (El Comercio, 1863). It is important to note that in its previous voyage this bark had touched in the port of Pisco, Ica, Peru. Aurelio García y García described Pisco in his book Derrotero de la costa del Perú published precisely in 1863 the following way:

It is the port on the coastal province of Ica, whose city is fourteen leagues away. (...) This port provides considerable exportations (...) From the different valleys and creeks of the coastal province of Ica it is extracted: grape aguardientes [brandies], in earthenware vessels: called botijas and piscos; wine in barrels; cotton in packs, beans, dates and other products in bags. [translated from original in Spanish]

According to the sources, the Mandarina sailed on August 31st towards “Lomas,” a port located further south in Arequipa, Peru (El Comercio, 1863 a). According to the “Movimiento Marítimo” [Shipping Intelligence] consulted, the bark was still in Punta de Lomas [Point of Lomas] on October 12th (El Comercio, 1863 b). About this port, García y García noted the following:

On the N. [north] side of the point [of Lomas] so described, is located the good port of Lomas (…) The place is uninhabited, one can only see a few constructions, which are used to store the products of the farms that utilize this port for their ex- ports. These products consist of: sugar, molasses, rum, and aguardiente [brandy]. [translated from original in Spanish](1)

Continuing with the story, when the Mandarina arrived in California, among its cargo there were 200 jars or pisquitos of Pisco type Italia (distinctively aromatic), which was consigned to Nicholas Larco, a successful Italian businessman and ex- resident of Lima, Peru, who emigrated to San Francisco in the midst of the Gold Rush of 1849.(2) Much to Larco’s surprise, on December 31st, the chief of the Custom House of San Francisco, Charles James, decided to seize the shipment of pisco and libeled the Mandarina claiming violation of the United States Act of 1799, which established that the minimum volume of containers used to import distilled spirits was 90 gallons. The jars of Pisco Italia contained between 3 and 4 gallons each (NARA, 1864).

Larco, who had previously imported Pisco Italia in these same jars without any objection from the Custom House, voiced his complaint. The Daily Alta California published an article on January 6, 1864, entitled “Custom House Seizure” which described the seizure of the Pisco and the libel of the bark Mandarina and criticized in an extensive and negative way the decision of the Custom House officials.

That same day, Charles James sent a telegram to S.P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury of the United States in Washington D.C., asking for instructions and explaining that the Pisco had been previously imported to San Francisco in the same jars, but when other people were in charge of the Custom House (NARA, 1864 a).

Secretary Chase answered via telegram on January 8th instructing that the bark Mandarina be released but the shipment of Pisco should be confiscated. In a later letter sent by mail, the secretary instructs that whoever broke this law in the future should have its liquor seized but not the ship, unless evidence was found that proved the importation was intentional.

The same day, James reported the seizure of the Pisco to the District Attorney of San Francisco, William H. Sharp, and notified it was available for auction, as it was usually done with all the products seized by the Custom House at that time (NARA, 1864 b).

On January 27th, District Attorney Sharp filed a suit in front of Judge Odgen Hoffman U.S. District Judge of Northern California, numbered No. 161 and titled “The US vs. 200 Jars of Pisco” (NARA, 1864 c). On the same day, Sharp orders the Marshal of San Francisco, Charles W. Rand, to store the Pisco until further notice (NARA, 1864 d).

Three days later, the Mandarina sailed freely from San Francisco to Hong Kong, taking $8,052 in merchandise and $20,000 in treasury (Daily Alta California, 1864).

On February 16th, Judge Hoffman decreed that the 200 jars of Pisco were legally confiscated and, being now property of the U.S. Government, ordered they be auctioned by Marshal Rand (NARA, e), action that took place on March 3rd (Daily Alta California,1864 a).

Rand declared that the Pisco was auctioned for $1,277.65 and sent that amount to the court on March 14th, (NARA, 1864 f). That same day, it was declared that the costs of the marshal, of the office of the court and of the district attorney were $148.73, $22.23 y $22.55 respectively, adding a total of $193.51. The marshal also reported that the commission of the auctioneer, Newhall & Co. of San Francisco, was $79.41 (NARA, g, h, i).

The next day, Nicholas Larco, represented by his attorney John Satterlee, presents to Judge Hoffman a petition requesting the reconsideration of the case and that the funds resulting from the auction not be distributed until the end of the pending trial, petition that was accepted (NARA, 1864 j). On April 12th, Judge Hoffman ordered that the expenses of the court, of the marshal and of the district attorney be paid with the proceeds of the auction (NARA, 1864 k).

On June 11th, Judge Hoffman prepared a detailed document titled “Statement of Facts” in which he describes the circumstances surrounding the seizure of the Pisco and the precedents, including Larco’s petition to reconsider the issue and the signed testimony of the chief of the Custom House (NARA, 1864 l, ll). These documents were mailed to the offices of the Secretary of the Treasury in Washington D.C. for evaluation.

Two months later, on August 22nd, Mr. George Harrington, representing the Secretary of the Treasury in Washington D. C., mailed to San Francisco an order in which he stated that the seizure of Pisco is revoked and that all the funds collected from the auction should be given to Larco, following his payment of all the court costs mentioned before and a fine equivalent to the import duty of the Pisco in case it had not been seized (NARA, 1864 m).

The import duty charged by the Custom House was $1 per gallon of Pisco. On that same day, Judge Hoffman emitted a decree following the orders from the Secretary of the Treasury in which he released Larco of any guilt and dismissed the case (NARA, 1864 n). The Custom House estimated that the total volume of the 200 jars of Pisco was equivalent to 650 gallons so the fine was set to $650 (NARA, 1864 o), amount that was later reduced to $601.25 on September 10th, after a more exact measurement of the total volume of the jars was made (NARA, 1864 p).

Larco received the net amount of $483 for the 200 jars of Pisco, which is equivalent to approximately $6,202 in today’s dollars (Holliday, 1999; U. S. Department Of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2007), without taking into account his attorney’s fees and personal expenses. Obviously, that amount was much lower than what he could have received if the Pisco had not been seized and auctioned by the Custom House authorities.(3)

The defense used by Larco during the case was that he was not aware of the mentioned Act and that the Custom House of San Francisco had previously allowed the import of Pisco in the same jars for several years and without any objection (NARA, 1864 q). Judge Hoffman specifically pointed out in his Statement of Facts that the same chief of the Custom House had permitted the import of Pisco in its original jars in three prior instances: one for 35 jars in October of 1862, another one for 25 jars in May of 1863 and the third one for 97 jars in December of the same year. This statement contradicted the testimony of Custom House's chief (NARA, 1864 r).

It is possible that Charles James had decided to apply the Act of 1799 perhaps influenced by California producers of wine and liquor who in that year announced for the first time the availability of grape brandies produced locally in significant quantities (Daily Morning Call, 1864, 63).(4) Whatever it may be, the import of Pisco to San Francisco in its original jars continued well into the 20th century. (Kunkel, 2001).

Regardless of any competitive commercial scenario that could have confronted Larco in 1864, the documentation of the suit “The U.S. vs. 200 Jars of Pisco” reveals legal historical evidence that is irrefutable with respect to the Peruvian origin of the liquor in that date. The first one comes from the article published by the Daily Alta California on January 6th, 1864, already mentioned. In that article, a well informed San Franciscan reporter writes that:

The Custom House authorities have seized and confiscated 200 jars of Pisco, and libeled the Peruvian bark Mandarina for an alleged violation of the act of March 2d. 1799 (...) This liquor is made in Pisco, Peru, of grape, and is placed in earthenware jars containing from 2 1/2 to 3 gallons each, the jar being made tapering to facilitate transportation in Peru, the custom being to align three jars on each side of a mule. (Daily Alta California, 1864 b).

Judge Odgen Hoffman writes in his Statement of Facts of June 11 of the same year that:

“Pisco”, the article in question is a spirit manufactured in Peru from the Muscatel Grape and is sent to foreign countries and imported into the Port of San Francisco from Peru in earthen jars called Pisquitos made in Peru and containing between three and four gallons each. (NARA, 1864 s).

While lawyer John Satterlee, in name of Nicholas Larco, writes in the legal petition of the same date that:

On the 27th day of December 1863 he [Larco] imported into this Port ex Barque “Mandarina” an invoice of 200 jars of Pisco Italia, an article manufactured from the Muscatel grape in the Republic of Peru, in jars containing between three and four gallons each, which is and has been (...) the usual way of importing said liquor. (NARA, 1864 t).

As a conclusion, it can be affirmed that the legal case “The U.S. vs. 200 Jars of Pisco” of 1864, not only brings into light evidence of the historical Peruvian exporting tradition of Pisco to San Francisco ––in addition to presenting important data about the type of Pisco imported as a consequence of certain commercial and legal transactions of that era–– but demonstrates in a clear and unequivocal way that, at least until 1864, there was no doubt from the part of the U.S. legal system or from the population of San Francisco that Pisco was only native of Peru.


1.- ”Lomas,” a minor port located 149 miles south of Pisco (Cisneros,1898) was the natural port for the haciendas located in the valleys of Nazca (Ica) and Acarí (Arequipa) and towns of Ayacucho (Montoya, 1980).

2.- Nicholas Larco was born in Santa Margarita Ligure, Italy in 1818 and emigrated to Lima with his brothers Francisco and Fructuoso in the 1830s. He arrived in San Francisco on August 25, 1849 where he had a career as a general merchandise merchant. He died in San Francisco in 1878 (Baccari & Canepa, 1981; Ludowieg, 1993).

3.- The sales price of Pisco Italia in San Francisco in 1849 was $22 per jar (The Panama Star, 1849). Using that price, the 200 jars confiscated to Nicholas Larco in 1864 can be valued at $4,400 in 1849 dollars, which is equivalent to $106,203 in today’s dollars (Holliday, 1999; U. S. Department Of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2007).

4.- For example, just two weeks before the confiscation of Larco’s Pisco, the Daily Morning Call published an advertisement from Kohler & Prohling announcing that their wines and brandies, produced in California, had won five of six awards in the Ohio State Fair last September (Daily Morning Call, 1863; Daily Morning Call, 1864).

FIGURES (click on titles to see the figures)

1. Notice of the sailing of bark Mandarina to San Francisco

2. Article published by the Daily Alta California

3. Notice of the auction sale of the Pisco

4. Statement of Facts of Judge Odgen Hoffman

5. Legal Petition of Nicholas Larco

6. The Port of San Francisco in 1863


Baccari, A. & Canepa, A.
1981. “The Italians in San Francisco in 1865, G.B. Cerrutti’s Report to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs”. California History, Vol. LX, No. 4, Winter 1981/82. California.

Centro de Estudios de las Finanzas Públicas de la H. Cámara de Diputados con datos de U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
2007. Estados Unidos: Indice de Precios al Consumidor, 1980 – 2007.

Cisneros, Carlos B. & García, Rómulo E.
1898. Guia ilustrada de Lima, el Callao y sus alrededores, Imprenta del Estado, p. 14. Lima.

Daily Alta California.
1864. Commercial and Financial, Feb 1, 1864. San Francisco.

1864 a. Auction Sales, H. M. Newhall & Co. Mar 3, 1864. San Francisco.

1864 b. Customs House Seizure. Jan 6, 1864. San Francisco.

Daily Morning Call.
1863. Grand Triumph of California Wines, Dec 24, 1863. San Francisco.

1864. Analysis of California Wines, Apr 4, 1864. San Francisco.

El Comercio.
1863. Edición de la tarde del 28 de octubre. Lima.

1863 a. Edición de la tarde del 12 de setiembre. Lima.

1863 b. Edición de la tarde del 13 de octubre. Lima.

García y García, Aurelio.
1863. Derrotero de la costa del Perú, Establecimiento Tipográfico de Aurelio Alfaro, pp. 57-58, y 75. Lima.

Holliday, J. S.
1999. Rush for riches: gold fever and the making of California, University of California Press, p. 346. Berkeley y Los Angeles.

Kunkel, T.
2001. Letters from the Editor - The New Yorker’s Harold Ross. The Modern Library, pp. 117-118. Nueva York.

Ludowieg Figari, Miguel.
1993. La familia Larco en el Perú. Revista del Instituto Peruano de Investigaciones Genealógicas, 19, p.151. Lima.

Montoya, Rodrigo
1980. Capitalismo y no capitalismo en el Perú: un estudio histórico de un eje regional. Mosca Azul. Lima.

The Panama Star.
1849. Prices in San Francisco, Vol. 1, No. 13, Jun 10, 1849. Panamá.

The United States National Archives and Records Administration, Pacific Region (San Francisco).
1863. FOREIGN VESSELS Entered in the District of San Francisco from Foreign Countries, during the 4th Quarter of 1863.

1864. “The United States of America v. 200 Jars of Pisco”; United States Common Law, Equity, and Admiralty Case Files, 1851-1903; Box 118 @shelf 1022B; Case Number 1380. Libel, Filed January 27, 1864, Wm. H. Sharp US. atty; Fol. 2.

1864 a. Certificate Copy of Statement of Facts by the Dist. Judge, Filed June 11, 1864, W. H. Chevers clerk; Fol. 5.

1864 b. Certificate Copy of Statement of Facts by the Dist. Judge, Filed June 11, 1864, W. H. Chevers clerk; Fol 7, 8.

1864 c. Libel, Filed January 27, 1864, Wm. H. Sharp US. atty.

1864 d. Monition ret’ble February 16th 1864, W. M. Sharp US. atty., Issued January 27 1864.

1864 e. Decree, Filed February 16, 1864, W. H. Chevers clerk.

1864 f. Venditioni Exponas, Returnable the third day of March 1864, Filed March 14, 1864, W. H. Chevers clerk.

1864 g. U. S. Marshal’s Costs...$116.80, Filed March 14, 1864, W. H. Chevers, clerk.

1864 h. Clerk’s Fees, $22.23, Filed March 14, 1864, W. H. Chevers, clerk.

1864 i. U. S. Atty. fees $25.55, Filed March 14, 1864, W. H. Chevers clerk.

1864 j. Order referring Petition of N. Larco, for proofs and staying proceedings etc. etc., Filed March 15, 1864, W. H. Chevers clerk.

1864 k. Order to pay costs out of fund, Filed April 12, 1864, W. H. Chevers clerk.

1864 l. Certificate Copy of Statement of Facts by the Dist. Judge, Filed June 11, 1864, W. H. Chevers clerk.

1864 ll. Certificate Copy of Petition of N. Larco, Filed June 11, 1864, W. H. Chevers clerk.

1864 m. Remission of Forteiture, Filed Aug. 22, 1864, W. H. Chevers clerk.

1864 n. Decree, Filed Aug. 22, 1864, W. H. Chevers clerk.

1864 o. Certificate of Collection of Port that duties are $650, Filed Aug. 22, 1864, W. H. Chevers clerk.

1864 p. Corrected Certificate of Collection of Port that duties are $601.25, Filed Sept. 10, 1864, W. H. Chevers clerk.

1864 q. Certificate Copy of Petition of N. Larco, Filed June 11, 1864, W. H. Chevers clerk, Fol. 2,3.

1864 r. Certificate Copy of Statement of Facts by the Dist. Judge, Filed June 11, 1864, W. H. Chevers clerk, Fol. 4.

1864 s. Certificate Copy of Statement of Facts by the Dist. Judge, Filed June 11, 1864, W. H. Chevers clerk, Fol. 2.

1864 t. Certificate Copy of Petition of N. Larco, Filed June 11, 1864, W. H. Chevers clerk, Fol. 2.

The Life and Passions of Victor V. Morris, Creator of the Pisco Sour

By Guillermo L. Toro-Lira - February, 2008

I presume the least I say of it the better, as were I to express my feelings as they really are it will not look well in print. Victor V. Morris, March, 1900.

Victor Vaughen Morris was born on August 5, 1873 in Salt Lake City, Utah, United States, from a large and well reputed Mormon family. His father, Richard Vaughan Morris, was born in Abergele, Wales, in 1830, and emigrated to Salt Lake City in 1855, where he was a member of the Nauvoo Legion. He came to Utah with his recent wife, Hannah Phillips, also born in Wales. In the 1860s he built an Adobe house, which is currently registered as an historical monument by the State of Utah. Richard V. Morris had five children with Mrs. Phillips, of which the oldest, Richard P. Morris, born in 1855 in Salt Lake City, was major of that city in 1904.

After Mrs. Phillips’ death in 1864, Richard V. Morris marries Harriet Jones, mother of our personage and born in Nishnabotna, Missouri, in 1848. Victor V. Morris was the fifth of nine children and the second oldest of the three boys. Little is known about his childhood, other that he received a proper middle school education and that, according to a 1900 census, he knew how to read, write and speak English. The same census shows that his profession was a florist. In 1899, he worked in the flower shop of his oldest brother, Burton C. Morris, along with his youngest brother, Sidney H. Morris. Since 1900, Victor became the manager of the shop after his brother Burton was murdered in 1899.

The murder of Burton C. Morris can be summarized as a tragedy that shouldn’t have happened and that occurred because of the charms of a beautiful young lady and some Mint Julep cocktails badly prepared. In the afternoon of the 17th of July of 1899, Burton C. Morris was walking through Salt Lake City downtown with Miss Leda Stromberg, a lady that was the object of his attention for the last four months. They decided to go to the Vienna cafe, where Morris ordered two Mint Juleps. Morris didn’t like them and sends them back. This rejection occurs three times and thereafter an exasperated Morris approached the bartender and teaches him how to prepare them correctly. Immediately, Morris proposes for them to go to the Merchant restaurant instead. Without showing her anger, Miss Stromberg agrees to meet him there in an hour because she had some errands to run.

After arriving at the restaurant, Leda Stromberg stumbles on John H. Benbrook, a married man and owner of a popular gambling house. She had known him for some years. They decide to have a couple of Mint Juleps and dinner. A few minutes after being served, Burton Morris shows up in the room and gets enraged after seeing the object of his love dinning with another man, and worse of all, with two Mint Julep on the table. He throws a punch on Benbrook’s face, who then leaves to an adjoining room and asks the owner of the place to bring him a gun. A few minutes later, with the weapon in Benbrook’s hand, Morris arrives in the room and quickly approaches his opponent apparently without realizing that he had a gun. Benbrook shoots three times, Burton Morris falls to the floor and dies after a few minutes with two holes in his aorta.

Because of this tragedy, the State of Utah begins a trial against John H. Benbrook for the murder of Burton C. Morris. The trial lasts from the 19th of February of 1900 until the 9th of March of the same year. The details of the trial were front page news in Salt Lake City’s newspapers and it was one of the greatest events of the city in those days. Victor V. Morris was present in all the trial sessions, except in the last one, when the Jury gives its verdict. The Jury declares Benbrook not guilty because they ruled that he acted in self defense.

The City’s public opinion became outraged with the Jury’s decision, but not the gambling houses, which were jubilant. The chief of police declared that he will not permit any type of celebration in those establishments. After the trial, Victor Morris declared in an outrage:

I presume the least I say of it the better, as were I to express my feelings as they really are it will not look well in print. I think however, that when the Legislature meets again, that it should immediately repeal the law making murder an offense in Utah and thus save the State the expense of going to trial with cases the outcome of which is little more than a farse.

The sudden death of Victor Morris’ brother was the third tragedy that occurs to the Morris’ family. The first is the murder of Fred Jones, the uncle of Victor, which happened nineteen years before and perpetrated by a “drunken loafer” named Halloran in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The second, was when a cousin named John Burton is murdered in Salt Lake City twelve years before by the owner of a saloon and gambling house, named Martin. In all cases the slayers escaped punishment.

After his brother’s death, Victor became the manager of the flower shop (named The Burton C. Morris Floral Company), where his brother Sidney also worked. In May of the same year, Victor is in charge of preparing a train wagon full of flowers in honor of the miners that died in an explosion of a coal mine in the near city of Scofield, which left 107 widows and 270 children without a father. This was the largest mining disaster in the history of the United States at the time, and the fifth largest today. The wagon where the flowers were transported, was offered by A.E. Welby, the general superintendent of the Utah branch of the the railroad company Rio Grande Western. Victor traveled to Scofield in private wagon along with the event organizers, including A.E. Welby.

Victor Morris worked in his flower shop for a couple of more years, sometimes participating in important events of the city, such as for example, a banquet in honor of a Mormon delegation that was to travel to Europe and Japan in may 1901. Morris was in charge of decorating a large table for one hundred people, which included roses, carnations and violets, in addition to palm trees spread around the room and a large quantity of electric lights, giving the place a “picture of rare brilliance” according to a witness.

Our personage was a member of the Elk’s Lodge, an association similar to the Masons, having him serve as a member of the Resources Commission of Utah during the Carnival of August of the same year. He also was a candidate for the position of Secretary in March of 1902, but he lost the election. In August of the same year, he is one of the assistants in charge of decorating Salt Lake City in honor of the visit of an important person.

Two of the passions of Victor Morris were fishing and hunting. He used to take several weeks vacations during summer to visit several remote locations such as the Weber River, situated north of Salt Lake City or Jackson Hole located 300 miles away in the State of Wyoming. During a trip to the last place in August of 1901, he started to feel sick and decided to return to Salt Lake City where he was diagnosed with typhoid fever, sickness that, thank God for all us lovers of Pisco Sour, he was able to overcome in one month.

In September of 1902, an event occurs that will change Victor Morris’ life forever and that could be considered to be the first link of a chain that concludes with the creation of the delicious Peruvian cocktail. The already mentioned A.E. Welby, resigns to his position as general superintendent of the Utah branch of the Rio Grande Western, to accept the position of manager of the newly created Cerro de Pasco Railway Company, located in Cerro de Pasco, Peru. His mission was to manage the construction of the railway that will connect the Andean mining center of Cerro de Pasco with the city of La Oroya, where the railroad reaching the port of Callao was finished in 1893.

Cerro de Pasco, located high in the Andes at an altitude of 14,000 feet, was an important mining center since the days of the Spanish Viceroyalty. It was very rich in silver and copper, but the last metal was largely ignored because of the high costs of transporting it to the Peruvian coast. Since 1887, an American syndicate based in New York started to evaluate the copper reserves in Cerro de Pasco. James B. Haggin, a mining promoter born in Kentucky, and A.W. McCunne, a miner from Salt Lake City, in representation of the syndicate, decide to send a mining engineer named James McFarlane to Cerro de Pasco to evaluate the mining potential of the area. After receiving a very favorable report, the syndicate forms the Cerro de Pasco Investment Company in 1902, which through his Peruvian subsidiary, the Cerro de Pasco Mining Company, buys the majority of the mining concessions of the area. The same year they buy railroad rights and form the Cerro de Pasco Railway Company, which was put in charge of constructing the 82 miles long railroad connecting La Oroya with Cerro de Pasco.

Salt Lake City was also created through mining. The discovery of lead and silver in Bingham Canyon in 1863 led to the mining development of the area. Hundreds of copper, silver, gold and lead mines were opened in neighboring canyons. By 1905, there were build 1,500 miles of railroads. Gigantic smelters were constructed to refine the ore. Several miners constructed large houses along the principal avenues of Salt Lake City. Victor Morris did not leave himself behind, he owned stock in at least two mining companies.

The Cerro de Pasco project caused commotion in Salt Lake City, specially because one of its “own,” A.W. McCunne, was one of the principals of the enterprise. In January 2nd of 1902, tens of expert miners of the city and neighboring areas left for Cerro de Pasco.

A short time after A.E. Welby leaves for Peru, Victor Morris decides to sell, transfer or close his flower shop. He finds work in the auditing department of the Oregon Short Line railroad, which served Wyoming, Utah, Idaho and Oregon. He worked in that position until June 3rd, 1903, when A.E. Welby hires him as a clerk in the Cerro de Pasco Railway Company, in Cerro de Pasco.

On the 8th of June of the same year, he takes the train to San Francisco, California, where he stays for a couple of weeks before sailing in a steamship to Peru.

A short time after the arrival of Morris to Cerro de Pasco, A.E. Welby resigns to his position after one year of work, indicating he could not adapt himself to the place. Welby returns to Salt Lake City, where he re-assumes his position of general superintendent of Rio Grande Western. Three years later, Welby is promoted to Denver, Colorado, where he takes charge of the Denver & Rio Grande railroad.

In March of 1904, Morris is in Cerro de Pasco working as a railroad agent.

On the 7th of July that year, the railroad finally reaches Cerro de Pasco. It’s inaugurated at 3:00PM of the 28th of July –date that coincided with the 83rd anniversary of the Peruvian independence– when with great pomp the first train arrives to Cerro de Pasco. There were 5,000 people in attendance. Stands were built for the important people, among them the consul agents, councillors, mining delegates, lawyers, doctors, priests, and many other members of the society. The ladies of the city manufactured two large flags, one American and one Peruvian, made of silk, gold and silver. These were located in the front of the engine which proudly carried the number 100. There were hundreds of smaller Peruvian and American flags placed in the first three first class cars. Victor Morris attended the ceremony and very probably participated in the decorations of the event. After several speeches and hurrahs the event concluded late in the afternoon.

In August of 1904, when Victor Morris was the cashier of the recently inaugurated railroad, he received the good news that his brother Sidney was hired as an engineer in the same company and that he sails to Peru via New York. The length of his contract is undefined but there was the possibility of it being temporary.

On the 28th of September of 1905, Victor Morris marries Maria Isabel Vargas, born in Lima (or Callao, according to one source), in Cerro de Pasco on May 17th, 1887. This legal wedding makes Maria a U.S. citizen. Victor and Maria Morris have three children: Richard P. Morris born in Cerro de Pasco on October 23rd, 1906; Robert V. born in Callao on April 29th, 1910 and Juana Rebecca born in Cerro de Pasco on February 2nd, 1913. The three children are registered as U.S. citizens. Little is known about this part of the Morris family, which could have included several trips to Lima and Callao.

In 1907, Victor’s youngest sister, Rebecca V,. gets married in the city of Pacific Grove, California. The newlyweds decide to live in the city of Berkeley, located a short distance from San Francisco, where Rebecca works in real state.

Victor Morris worked in the Cerro de Pasco Railroad Company until 1915, when the company is merged with the Cerro de Pasco Mining Company to form the Cerro de Pasco Copper Corporation.

From the year 1915, the Morris family resides in Lima, where Victor opens the Morris Bar on the same year.*

Nothing is known of the life of Sidney H. Morris, other that he sailed from Callao to New York in May of 1922, presumably going back to visit Utah. Sidney H. Morris is found residing in the city of San Francisco, California, in January of 1930.

In August of 1923, Victor, Maria and two of their three children, Robert and Juana Rebecca, sailed from Callao to San Francisco, California. They stayed in the nearby city of Berkeley. The trip is apparently for a vacation and to visit his sister Rebecca V., who resided in that city for over fifteen years. They repeat the visit in 1924 and in 1925, at the same time of the year. All these trips are aboard the steamship S.S. Colusa, owned by the Grace Line, a steamship company with Peruvian roots and with some interests in the Cerro de Pasco Copper Corporation. The address of the Morris’ at Berkeley is 2612 Regent St.

In 1927, the Morris Bar published an advertisement in Lima where Pisco Sour is announced, among many other cocktails that were very popular in the U.S. in the days prior to the Prohibition Act of 1919.* It was the first time that a cocktail with the word “pisco” in its name is advertised in Peru. It was also the second cocktail created in the world with that first name, after Pisco Punch, a cocktail created in San Francisco, California, and advertised since the 1880s. Victor Morris never offered Mint Juleps in his bar (a cocktail very similar to today’s Mojito but prepared with bourbon whiskey instead of rum).

Victor Morris dies on June 11th, 1929. In January of 1930, Maria Morris sails from Callao to San Francisco with her three children (Richard, Robert and Rebecca) on board the steamship S.S. Charcas, six months after the death of Victor. They reside in a new address in Berkeley: 2328 Warren St. and visit Sidney H. Morris, Victor’s brother, who resided in San Francisco at that time. In the middle of the same year, Maria and her three children reside in San Francisco.

*[AUTHOR’S NOTE: All the historical data presented in this article comes from public repositories located in the U.S., with the exception of the information related to the opening of Morris Bar in 1915 (Schiaffino, 2006) and the Morris Bar advertisement published in 1927 (Laos, 1927)(Balbi, 2004)(Schiaffino, 2006)].


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