I’m a whiskey lover, as a young guy my favorite drink was a Jack and Coke. As I’ve gotten a bit older, I’ve gravitated towards better drinks, and MUCH better whiskey. So its maybe a little fitting that my love affair with classic cocktails began with the Sazerac, which is (maybe) the original cocktail? Sitting in a little cafe in a Knoxville, TN (hadn’t quite made it to New Orleans yet..) I ordered a drink I had only heard of on David Simon’s fantastic New Orleans drama Treme (on HBO, you should
probably definitely check it out). What came out wasn’t really a traditional Sazerac, but I wasn’t in a position to know any better, and it was at least a passable representation, and it did open the door for me.
Traditionally the Sazerac was made with French Brandy, but sometime around 1900 it was Americanized with the introduction of Rye Whiskey as the main ingredient. The traditional recipe also calls for a sugar cube which many recipes now replace with some kind of sugar syrup (I typically use demerara). But what really makes a Sazerac unique is the liberal use of Peychauds with a small amount of sugar and the bitterness of the absinthe to bring the whole thing together (some people will tell you its ok to use some new fangled creole bitters. I’ll tell you, it’s just not the same).
Fast-forward to about a year after that first Sazerac in Knoxville, and we finally did make it to New Orleans in the heat and humidity of August (…hey you gotta go when you gotta go), and I got my Sazerac at Tujague’s in the French Quarter (and a bunch of other places..). Since then I’ve been on a mission to make a perfect Sazerac at home, and capture that 160+ year old New Orleans feel.
This recipe combines a bit of the old New Orleans, with some of the ‘modern flair’ (modern being a relative term when it comes to 160 year old beverages). I use Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond Rye Whiskey as my base. Its actually my favorite all around whiskey, its got a smoother almost bourbon-y finish while still maintaining lots of that rye spice. I go as far as to make my old fashioned’s with it occasionally. It’s a well balanced whiskey, and its also, exceedingly affordable at around $30/bottle. I mix that with half an ounce of cognac, to really balance things out, and add the liberal amounts of bitters discussed above.
The short story of the Sazerac is that you won’t know what you’re missing until you try it, and its a drink I actually recommend trying at home first…I’ve had a lot of restaurants make miserable interpretations, and it would be terrible to be turned off from the drink based on a bartender who has no idea what he’s doing.Print
- Total Time: 5 min
- Yield: 1 drink
- 1.5 fl oz. Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond Rye Whiskey
- 1.5 fl oz.Maison Rouge VSOP Cognac
- 6 Dashes Peychauds Bitters
- 1 Dashes Angostura Bitters
- 1 Teaspoon Demerara Syrup
- Absente Absinthe
- 1 Lemon Twist
- Pour a small amount of absinthe into your glass, gently rotate the glass coating with absinthe, once the glass is coated, dump the excess liquid. Alternatively, use an atomizer if available and spray twice into the glass to coat.
- Add ice to a mixing glass, 4-5 cubes or one craft cocktail cube should suffice.
- Add the whiskey, cognac, and bitters to the mixing glass and stir with a barspoon.
- Strain with a hawthorne strainer into your glass.
- Fold the Lemon twist over the top of the glass to express the oils contained in the peel.
- Rub the outside of the twist (yellow side) around the rim of the glass, and float the twist on the top of the drink as garnish.
Serve Straight Up in an Old Fashioned Glass
Keywords: Sazerac, Classic Cocktails, New Orleans Cocktails, Rye Whiskey, Cognac, Peychauds Bitters, Angostura Bitters, Absinthe