This sazerac cocktail recipe, which calls for brandy or rye whiskey, bitters, sugar, and absinthe or pastis, originated in New Orleans in the 1850s. But it’s back with a vengeance for modern sippers.
The Sazerac, one of the earliest recorded cocktails, came into this world sometime in the 1850s. It was originally made with brandy, but (as I’m sure you’ll agree) there’s nothing quite like one made with a good rye whiskey.–Ben Reed
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LC Shazam! Sazerac Note
It should come as no surprise that the Sazerac cocktail, a drink that draws heavily on the spirited oomph of absinthe, originated in the relatively loose city of New Orleans. It reportedly came into existence as the house cocktail at an “exchange” (read: bar) run by a booze importer in the early 1800s. It was a variant on a “cocktail,” which in those days referred to the loose equation of a little sugar, a little water, a lot of booze, and a splash of bitters. Peychaud’s is the traditional bitters of choice, seeing as the druggist Antoine Amedie Peychaud was located just down the street from the “exchange.” Cognac was the original booze of choice, though allegiance quickly shifted to rye whiskey in the late 1800s when a phylloxera outbreak in Europe halted the production of European wines and spirits, while barrels of straight rye conveniently came floating down the Mississippi from the Midwest. What makes the Sazerac a unique expression of cocktaildom is the rinse of absinthe in the glass, which lends the cocktail a slight herbal smack and a surfeit of bragging rights. (Yes, in a sense, it’s a damn fool waste. You can leave a slight puddle in the glass, but don’t get all crazy and leave all the absinthe. Wait and take a sip of this cocktail prior to passing judgement.)
Don’t be confused if you happen across a bottle labeled “Sazerac” at the liquor store. This is a brand of rye whiskey—and a misnomer.
- 2 ounces rye whiskey (or, for traditionalists, brandy, preferably a fine Cognac)
- 2 teaspoons Simple Syrup
- 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters or more to taste
- 2 teaspoons absinthe or pastis (such as Herbsaint, Pernod, or Ricard)
- Lemon twist
- Stir the whiskey, Simple Syrup, and bitters in an old-fashioned glass filled with ice.
- Rinse a second old-fashioned glass, preferably chilled, with the absinthe and dump out the liquid.
- Strain the contents of the first glass into the absinthe-rinsed glass and garnish with the twist.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This is my drink! After living in New Orleans for 5 years there’s nothing that brings me back quite like a Sazerac. I believe that this drink needs to find a larger audience because it’s such a great classic cocktail. It’s a simple recipe and I prefer more of the Peychaud’s, but that’s a personal taste. The absinthe rinse adds such a lovely anise flavor. I think this is great during the winter, but honestly, it can be enjoyed year-round (as I do). It’s a potent cocktail worth trying.
This is a pretty classic formula for a Sazerac. The Sazerac is a cocktail that reveals itself in layers of flavor. You need to take your time with this one. Each sip will be a little bit different from the next. The first might taste mostly like the primary ingredient, but the absinthe and bitters shine through as you sip, and add a marvelous complexity. It may seem a horrible waste to swirl absinthe around a glass and toss it, but trust me, that tiny bit left in the glass is enough. The simple syrup rounds things out and adds depth. You can adjust the amount as you please.
Originally published December 04, 2012