The Sazerac is a New Orleans classic that hasn’t dimmed in popularity since the 1830’s, nevertheless, it’s a cherished recipe that always comes with a side of debate.
A close cousin to the Old Fashioned, the Sazerac disguises accents of liquorice and absinthe beneath a smooth pairing of Cognac and Rye.
The key to the perfect Sazerac is to find the harmony in opposing flavours, allowing you to sip and savour an oxymoronic concoction. Smooth yet bold, soft yet strong – the Sazerac is determined to knock your socks off and help you put them back on again.
A Sip of Sazerac's Past
Although it is now known as New Orleans’ official cocktail since 2008, the original veers from what we sip from our absinthe spritzed glasses today. Originally, the Sazerac was made with Cognac, but with the phylloxera plague ploughing through cognac supplies in the 1870s – Rye became a respectful retreat.
The Sazerac is thought to be first conceived at the Merchant’s Exchange Coffee House, named after the ‘Sazerac-du-Forge et Fils’ cognac company, where it soon became the bar’s speciality. The bar went through many rebrands, changing to The Sazerac Coffee House in 1870 and The Sazerac Bar in 1938. It wasn’t until after Prohibition in 1949 that the Roosevelt Hotel sought ownership of the ‘Sazerac Bar’ name for its lobby bar, where it still stands today.
The Sazerac Company began to bottle and market the cocktail in the 1890s and word quickly travelled along the Mississippi, for it to become a favourited staple amongst NOLA’s discerning drinkers.
In 1912 however, it underwent another makeover with the ban of absinthe in the US, where the cocktail was adapted with Herbsaint, a Sazerac Company substitute. Although times have changed, if you visit bars in the French Quarter, many will still use Herbsaint today.
Sazerac Start Point: 'Blended' Sazerac
10ml Sugar Syrup
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters
Stir the rye, cognac, sugar, and bitters in a cocktail beaker with cubed ice, until sufficiently diluted and well chilled.
‘Rinse’ your chilled old-fashioned with the absinthe and discard excess (or you can use an ‘atomiser’, keep reading to learn more)
Strain the contents into your chilled glass, twist a lemon peel over the drink and rim to express the oils of the citrus. Discard the peel and serve without ice.
For first timers, let’s start with a disclaimer. The Sazerac is known to pushed, pulled, tailored, and tweaked, all depending on individual palates. Purists will argue that their version of the drink is the ‘authentic’ one. But for a cocktail with such a tangled past and each spirit contributing a different personality, we can only suggest you adapt yours as you see fit.
Adapting your Serve
Lead Spirit – Opt for a Rye dominated Sazerac and you’ll be met with a spicier, more robust character. Bourbon will greet you with a calmer, softer personality, whereas Cognac may simple out-do the rest by taking your palate to a more delicate dimension.
The ‘blended’ Sazerac recipe above, works great as a starting point to help you suss out your preference. The bottom line is, is that you may just need to upset a few purists to reach your perfect balance. We’ve been enjoying ours with Sazerac 6yr and Courvoisier VSOP, delicious!
Bitters - Play around with the spirits all you like however, but we would avoid tampering with the bitters (unless you’re talking ratios). In most opinions, a Sazerac is simply not a Sazerac without Peychaud's Bitters. So don’t overlook this component. Irrespective of whether you make it as a blend or as a Rye- or Cognac-dominated Sazerac, the cocktail will benefit from the bitters addition.
Upgrading your Sazerac Experience
Chilled Glassware: Traditionally, the Sazerac is served without ice, so don’t be disheartened if the volume looks a bit off compared to an Old Fashioned. Our top tip to ensure your drinking experience is satisfying all the way through to the last sip, is to chill your glassware! If you know a Sazerac is going to be on the cards for your evening tipple, get prepared and put that glass in the freezer. Trust us, it’s worth it.
Absinthe Application: Using an ‘atomiser’ (decanting the absinthe into a small spray bottle) will elevate your experience even further. It allows for greater coverage and control over the amount you want coating your glass. If you opt for the rinsing method, it also prevents as much wastage when you discard the excess before straining. To lean into the French influence of the Sazerac we are opting for La Fée Absinthe Parisian.
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