The Sazerac is my hands-down favorite winter cocktail. Created in New Orleans in the 1830's, it is a delightful concoction of rye whiskey spiked with the complex aromatic flavors of anise liqueur and Peychaud's bitters (named for apothecary Antoine Peychaud who came up with both the recipe for the bitters and the cocktail itself).
I first discovered the Sazerac while doing research for a visit to New Orleans. We planned to try the cocktail at Napoleon House, but it was closed for a private party and we didn't quite manage to try the drink in its city of origin. In the end, I finally had my first Sazerac later on the same trip at City House in Nashville. I was an instant fan.
Originally made with cognac, the Sazerac is now made with rye whiskey. I generally use the appropriately named Sazerac Rye which is produced by Buffalo Trace Distillery (whose parent conglomerate now also control the Herbsaint and Peychaud's brands). I quite like the stuff, and enjoy it on its own when I'm too lazy to make a cocktail.
My version of the Sazerac is a bit stripped down from the official recipe. I omit the sugar, and I do not like to use a chilled glass (I have the same preference when making a Manhattan).
First up is the Herbsaint, an anise-flavored liqueur. I add just enough so that I can roll it around to create a coating on the inside of a whiskey glass.
I love the smell of the Herbsaint, and coating the glass with it brings out the aroma and helps it persist after the whiskey is added.
Next, a few drops of Peychaud's bitters:
The ruby-red color of the bitters instantly turn the color of the glass from lime-green to a burnished orange.
Then it is time for the whiskey. I generally pour in around two fingers worth, but I'm not at all fussy about the exact measure. The more whiskey, the less dominant the flavors of the Herbsaint and Peychaud's will be - I use more or less depending on my mood.
Then, it's down the hatch - tongue-tingling and belly-warming.
Cheers, and Happy Holidays!