Cocktail Hour: Sazerac

This post is kind of inspired by my friend and coworker, Vic, who is a displaced New Orleanian. We were in Houston together a few months ago, and had dinner. Houston is filled with displaced New Orleanians, and our excellent waiter was one of them. Vic asked if they made a Sazerac– our waiter said that the bartender didn’t, but he would.  After a few minutes, he returned with a perfectly balanced, beautiful-to-look at Sazerac.

The Sazerac is, of course, the official cocktail of New Orleans.  It was created in 1859 by John Schiller for the opening of the Sazerac Coffee House.  It started out as a brandy drink (based on the Sazerac-et-fils brandy– I wonder where Schiller got the name for his coffee house?), according to the Sazerac website, but was refined by 1873 to use rye whiskey instead.   It is distinguished among cocktails for two reasons.  First, it uses a rinse of Absinthe, later changed to Herbsaint after Absinthe was made illegal, and again Absinthe after the liquor was legalized in 2007.  As Herbsaint is the official spirit of New Orleans, I am sticking with Herbsaint, but trust me– there’s a big Absinthe post coming soon.  The other reason it’s distinctive is the use of Peychaud’s Bitters.  You probably have Angostura bitters at home, but Peychaud’s, which are a pretty red color, are what you need for this drink– they’ve got a wonderful anise flavor that complements the Herbsaint or Absinthe.

This is a slightly laborious drink to make.  First, you need two Old Fashioned glasses.  The ones I used were a little big, so the poor drink looks a little bit lost in it.

So, ingredients:

Cocktail Hour: Sazerac

1 sugar cube

3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

2 oz rye whiskey (the Sazerac Company makes a nice one)

1/4 oz Herbsaint or Absinthe

lemon twist

Take one Old Fashioned glass and pack it with crushed ice and a little water.  Let it sit to the side.  Take your second glass, put in one sugar cube, and douse with the Peychaud’s bitters.  Some recipes call for 3, some call for 7, I use about 5.  Dashes apparently are all about odd numbers.Cocktail Hour: Sazerac

With a muddler, muddle the bitters and sugar together until you  have a bitters-sugar paste.

Take your other old fashioned glass and pour out the ice.  Pour in the absinthe or Herbsaint and swirl around.  Discard the leftovers.  If that happens to be by drinking, I won’t tell.

Cocktail Hour: SazeracNext, add the rye and stir with your barspoon.Pour the whiskey from your mixing glass into the absinthe/herbsaint-swirled glass.  Twist your lemon above the drink, and, depending on your school of thought, either discard the twist or pop it in the drink.  I am of the twist-in-the-drink school of thought.

What you end up with is the bite of whiskey, tempered with anise and lemon.  It smells divine, tastes better, and is a fun drink for the whiskey lover.  It’s strong, elegant and unlike anything else– sort of like its hometown.

I’m really excited that in July, I’ll be able to try a Sazerac (or two) in its native environment: New Orleans!  I’ll be heading to Tales of the Cocktail to cover the event as media.  It’s one of the premier cocktail-related events in the United States. Pretty cool, huh?  I can’t wait!

Cocktail Hour: Sazerac

9 thoughts on “Cocktail Hour: Sazerac”

  • Good job! As a native New Orleanian I must emphasize how important the Peychaud’s bitters are. I think you can get them at Party Source, I know you can get them at Jungle Jim’s. Using anything else unbalances the flavor and it is no longer a true Sazerac.

    I’d also like to point out that Absinthe is the preferred way to make one, at least in my social circles it was. I advise against Lucid, it is the least impressive Absinthe (the one with the green cat eyes).

    We’ll have to do a few rounds of Pimms Cups before you head down to NOLA….
    .-= Loki´s last blog ..Fairey Gate =-.

    • You can buy them at Party Source, which us where I got mine.

      I have 3 kinds of Absinthe at home– two new world and one old world. I’ll be discussing them soon.

      And yes! Pimms! Soon.

  • The bar is stocked. The house is a mess and the cats are spoiled, but Pimms is here. I even have fresh cucumbers… [Settle down people, they’re a garnish]
    .-= Loki´s last blog ..Fairey Gate =-.

  • This is a fantastic sipper. And well-chronicled here, I should add. The original brandy version is good, but tends (I think) to be an acquired taste.

    I like to garnish with a cinnamon stick and if I’ve got them around. The cinnamon is a nice complement to the already-complex “nose” in the glass. I knew an old-timer who swore by fresh mint as well … .

  • PS-looks like you’ve got some St. George there Julie! Good stuff.

    I see that you are using a muddler that appears to have stain & varnish on it. Dale DeGroff pointed something out to me a few years ago when I first met him at the Campbell Apartments in Manhattan’s Grand Central Station . If you use a muddler that has stain and varnish on it you will notice that over time the stain will fade and wear off. Guess where that stain & varnish are going? Right into your drinks. Get yourself a muddler that is made of solid wood without any stain or varnish on it. I bought an outstanding one per Dale’s suggestion from Mister Mojito:


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