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 It was originally made with brandy, but (as I’m sure you’ll agree) there’s nothing quite like one made with a good rye whiskey.–Ben Reed

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.

A Sazerac cocktail garnished with a twist, sitting on a bar beside a spoon and a bottle of rye whiskey.

Sazerac Cocktail

5 / 2 votes
The Sazerac cocktail is making a comeback revisiting the charm of old-school cocktails. Rye whiskey, absinthe, bitters, simple syrup, and a classic twist are all it takes.
David Leite
Servings1 servings
Calories215 kcal
Prep Time5 minutes
Total Time5 minutes


  • 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
  • Ice


  • 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.
Gatsby Cocktails

Adapted From

Gatsby Cocktails

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Serving: 1 cocktailCalories: 215 kcalCarbohydrates: 11 gSodium: 8 mgSugar: 11 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2012 Ben Reed. Photo © 2012 William Lingwood. All rights reserved.

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.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. I can’t stand wasting anything as good (or expensive) as Absinthe. I simply pour in a small bit, let it coat the glass and leave it in the drink. Easy on the Peychaud bitters. Too many times I have had Sazerac served that overdosed the Peychaud and ends up tasting like cough syrup.

  2. 5 stars
    I am really fond of whiskey and I always make cocktails from this one. What I love about the cocktail is the flavor.

    1. Not going to argue with you, Kelly! Love to hear which cocktail from our site captures your fancy next….