Another New Orleans classic that’s never dimmed in popularity since the 1830’s.
A close cousin to the Old Fashioned, the Sazerac disguises accents of liquorice and absinthe beneath a smooth pairing of Cognac and Rye.
The key to the perfect Sazerac is to find the harmony in opposing flavours, allowing you to sip and savour an oxymoronic concoction. Smooth yet bold, soft yet strong – the Sazerac is determined to knock your socks off and help you put them back on again.
20 ml Rye Whiskey
20 ml Cognac
5 ml Absinthe
10 ml Sugar Syrup
2 Dashes Peychaud's Bitters
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Stir the rye, cognac, sugar, and bitters in a cocktail beaker until diluted and well chilled.
Rinse your chilled old-fashioned with the absinthe and discard excess.
Strain the contents of the beaker into your glass, twist a lemon peel over the drink and discard, serve without ice.
The recipe for such a cherished cocktail is never without debate.
Originally, the Sazerac was made with cognac, but with the phylloxera plague ploughing through cognac supplies in the 1870s – Rye became a respectful retreat. As Bourbon eventually rose in popularity (even going on to become the favoured American whiskey), bartenders then adopted Bourbon over Rye in the cocktail.
So, purists may argue that their version of the drink is the “authentic” one, but with a tangled past and each spirit contributing a different personality, we tend to just go with which we prefer and suggest adapting yours as you see fit.
TIPS FOR HOW TO MAKE A SAZERAC
Spirit - The Sazerac is one known to be pushed, pulled, tailored, and tweaked, all depending on your individual taste.
Opt for a Rye dominated Sazerac and you’ll be met with a spicier, more robust character. Bourbon will greet you with a calmer, softer personality, whereas Cognac may simply out-do the rest by taking your palate to an even more delicate dimension.
But the question is; why keep them separate? Why not make a blended Sazerac, combining equal parts both of Bourbon and Cognac? Stanley Clisby Arthur (1937 Author of Famous New Orleans Drinks & How to Mix’Em) however wrote: “for while Bourbon may do for a julep, it just won’t do for a real Sazerac”. The bottom line is that you may need to upset a few to reach your perfect balance…
Bitters - Play around with the spirits all you like however, but we would avoid tampering with the bitters. In most opinions, a Sazerac is simply not a Sazerac without Peychaud's Bitters. Don’t skip out on the bitters either as irrespective of whether you make it as a blend, a Rye or Cognac dominated Sazerac the cocktail as an ensemble will benefit.
Ice – Again depending on your preference play around with your ice! In our recipe above, we have diluted the blend down in a cocktail beaker. What is important though to stop any further dilution we have left the ice out of the serve. However, if you ice to accompany your Sazerac, simply build the contents straight into the glass with a gentle stir to mix.
AN INEBRIATED HISTORY OF THE SAZERAC COCKTAIL
The Sazerac, whether it’s in one form or another, has been around as early as 1838 and was officially trademarked by Sazerac Co. as far back as 1900.
According to Difford’s Guide, the legend has it that the cocktail stems from one New Orleans entrepreneur, Sewell T. Taylor, who became a local agent for a French Cognac company, ‘Sazerac-du-Forge et Fils’ of Limoges.
Somewhere between 1850 and 1859 Taylor’s bar, The Merchant’s Exchange Coffee House at 13 Exchange Alley, the Sazerac Cocktail was conceived, becoming the bar’s speciality. “In the 1890s, the Sazerac Company started to bottle and market the cocktail that was quickly becoming a New Orleans favourite, and in 1912 with the ban of absinthe, the cocktail was again adapted to be made with Herbsaint, a Sazerac Company substitute”.
Although times have changed, if you visit bars in the French Quarter, many will still use Herbsaint today. In 2008, the beloved cocktail was even crowned as the “official” cocktail of New Orleans.