Where the love of mixology and good music combine
The Sazerac is a New Orleans institution; so much so that Louisiana State Legislature declared it the official drink of the city. If you want to know how to make one of the oldest cocktails on the planet, then it’s best to go directly to the source. The Sazerac Bar is my favorite bar in New Orleans. Authentic Art Deco design makes you feel like you are sitting in a place lost in time. One can imagine the colorful former Louisiana Governor Huey Long sitting at the bar holding court while sipping on a Ramos Gin Fizz. I love the place, and it was here I had my first real Sazerac. I present to you my version based on the classic recipe.
Flavor Profile: Spicy and Medicinal
2 oz Sazerac Rye (or your favorite rye)
3 Dashes Peychaud’s Bitters (four dashes if Angostura is not used)
1 Dash Angostura Bitters (optional)
1 Sugar Cube (or 1/4 oz simple syrup for a sweeter profile)
Absinthe Rinse (or Herbsaint)
Absinthe rinse a chilled, small rocks glass. Set aside.
In a mixing glass, place the sugar cube in the glass and add the bitters. Muddle both together. Add ice. Add the rye. Stir for approximately one minute. Strain into the small rocks glass with the absinthe rinse. Express lemon peel over the cocktail, and rub the peel around the rim.
This recipe is based on the classic New Orleans Sazerac Bar’s cocktail, but I use absinthe instead of Herbsaint and add a dash of Angostura bitters for complexity. In regards to the type of absinthe you should use: get a good one. I use Absinthe Jade Nouvelle-Orleans, but any high quality absinthe will do. The reason behind this insistence is simple: there are so few ingredients in a Sazerac that you should not skimp on anything as it will not be covered up by the other ingredients. I also cheat on how I apply an absinthe rinse. A traditional way of applying the rinse is to place a small amount of absinthe in the rocks glass and literally spin it in the air like you’re making pizza dough. Instead, I use a perfume sprayer (yes, you heard that right) filled with absinthe. Spray the inside of the rocks glass until it is fully coated. Works like a charm. I use Sazerac Rye, but any good rye can be used. Like its bourbon stablemate, the Old Fashioned, the Sazerac really benefits from the best ingredients possible. So break out that Thomas H. Handy or Sazerac 18 and have at it! In all seriousness, though, Rittenhouse or Old Overholt make great alternatives.
Finally, bringing the absinthe and rye together we have the bitters, sugar cube, and lemon. Whether you use Angostura is entirely a personal choice, but the Peychaud’s are not. You can substitute the sugar cube for simple syrup if so desired, but in my experience this makes the cocktail too sweet. Besides, I like muddling the sugar cube and bitters; for such a classic cocktail it just feels right. Make sure you remember to use a wide lemon peel, and squeeze the oils out and over the finished cocktail. I go the extra mile and rub the peel around the rim, but that is a personal preference.
In conclusion, this cocktail is not for everyone. Absinthe/Herbsaint are polarizing spirits with very strong flavor profiles that some can never get their palate around. There really is not an in between; you either like it or you don’t. However, a whiskey enthusiast really needs to try a Sazerac at least once in their life. If you can’t make it to New Orleans this recipe will get you 99% there.
Aurora Nealand and The Royal Roses “A Tribute to Sydney Bechet” Si Tu Vois Ma Mere (Independent)
One of the great live jazz performances I have heard in the last few years. Si Tu Vois Ma Mere really captures the heart and soul of traditional jazz, and I can’t think of a better song to pair with a Sazerac.