According to the Sazerac Company, the Sazerac is America's first cocktail. It was invented in New Orleans' French Quarter and quickly became popular in drinking establishments, politely referred to as "coffee houses," across the city. Today, tourists tend to order Hurricanes when they visit New Orleans for Mardi Gras, but for locals, the Sazerac is the cocktail of choice all year long.
How to Make a Sazerac
There's definitely an art to making the Sazerac. This drink recipe requires two old fashioned glasses in order to do it right, and it will take a little practice to master the steps. Once you do, making this cocktail will become second nature to you.
- Crushed ice
- 1 cube sugar
- 2 to 3 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
- 1 dash Angostura bitters (optional, but currently popular)
- 2 ounces rye whiskey
- 1/4 ounce Herbsaint
- A strip of lemon peel
- Line up two old fashioned glasses, and pack one with crushed ice to chill it.
- Place the sugar cube in the empty glass, add the Peychaud's Bitters (and the Angostura bitters), and crush the sugar cube with a muddle or a cocktail spoon.
- Add the rye whiskey to the glass with the sugar and bitters mix.
- Dump the ice out of the other cocktail glass, coat the inside of the glass with the Herbsaint, and pour out the excess.
- Pour the whiskey mix into the glass coated with Herbsaint.
- Twist the lemon peel over the drink, rub it around the rim of the glass, and discard it or use it as garnish if you like.
Recipe Adjustments and Substitutions
The recipe that includes Herbsaint is the one most commonly used today, although you'll find slight differences from one bartender to the next. The addition of a dash of Angostura bitters is a good example; some cocktail enthusiasts believe it really opens up the flavors in the drink.
Some Sazerac enthusiasts also recommend substituting approximately 1/2 ounce of simple syrup for the sugar cube. This is fine if you don't appreciate a touch of sugary grit at the bottom of your glass, and you can adjust the amount of syrup you use according to how sweet you like your drink.
Finally, you can make the drink with brandy if you really don't like rye whiskey, but the idea here is to increase your enjoyment of the drink without wandering too far from the essential Sazerac recipe. Brandy will give the drink an extra hint of sweetness that rye doesn't have.
A Drink With an Interesting History
According to the New Orleans Official Guide, Antoine Peychaud, maker of the famous bitters, created the Sazerac in 1838. He named the cocktail after his favorite brandy, Sazerac-de-Forge et fils, which he used in the original recipe.
About 35 years later, rye whiskey was being used as the main spirit, and a dash of absinthe was added to the recipe. The recipe underwent yet another change when absinthe was banned, and locally-produced Herbsaint was substituted for the banned substance.
Don't Wait Until You Visit New Orleans
The Sazerac may be the official drink of New Orleans, but that doesn't mean you have to visit the Big Easy in order to have one. Try the recipe above, with and/or without the Angostura bitters, and savor the flavor as you leisurely sip away.