Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Sazerac Cocktail

Sazerac Cocktail

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.

Sazerac Cocktail

Originally made with cognac, the Sazerac is now made with rye whiskey.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.

Sazerac Cocktail

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:

Sazerac Cocktail

The ruby-red color of the bitters instantly turn the color of the glass from lime-green to a burnished orange.

Sazerac Cocktail

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.

Sazerac Cocktail

Cheers, and Happy Holidays!

5 comments:

  1. excellent pictures and post! i really wish I could appreciate whiskey, but it's too strong for me to drink and enjoy. does it just mean that i need to drink more? ;) happy holidays guys!

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  2. I really enjoy your posts. They are generous, thoughtful and informative. I was especially taken by the post on the Sazerac, a drink I first came across in New Orleans some 50 years ago. In those days there was no absinthe, so I think that is the reason for the Herbsaint. But now we have wormwood absinthe again to put into our glasses. It is one of the best drinks of all time. Thanks again for your post.

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  3. Sawyer - yep, you just need to drink more!

    Anonymous - thanks for the kind words. I've never tried absinthe (with or without wormwood). I need to give it a try sometime.

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  4. I may have been unclear about the Absinthe. While it is made again with Wormwood, I believe that the quantity is miniscule. However, it still packs a strong taste, and is swirled in the Sazerac glass before the addition of a sugar cube and Peychaud's Bitters. That is then followed by the Rye and critically, a twist of lemon peel.

    If it seemed I was recommending Wormwood Absinthe as a stand alone drink, I do not. But if you do so, please write up one of your informative posts. Hopefully soon as possible after finishing the drink.

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  5. Try your Sazerac with the new vintage re-release of Herbsaint Original. the Sazerac Co. has revived the 1934 recipe of J.M. Legendre, and has produced Herbsaint as it was in the 1930s and 1940s.

    Herbsaint Original makes a smoother Sazerac,(And other Herbsaint related cocktails) and is a better stand alone drink than the modern Herbsaint, (Served in the classic New Orleans drip)it should be on the shelves very soon.

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