Monday Classics: The Sazerac

Monday Classics: The Sazerac

We’re returning to New Orleans today to talk about the third and final classic cocktail to hail from this city, believed by many to actually be America’s first “branded” cocktail. The history of the drink begins in 1838 with Antoine Amedie Peychaud, the owner of an apothecary shop in New Orleans, and creator of the famous Peychaud’s bitters. In addition to his apothecary duties, Peychaud began making “toddies” for his friends that included only 2 ingredients: brandy and Peychaud’s bitters. By 1850, these toddies had become well known enough for Aaron Bird to open the Sazerac Coffee House and serve these same drinks made with the French brandy, Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils, hence giving the drink its name. By 1870, the cognac was swapped out for American Rye whiskey and the Absinthe rinse was added in. During the years while Absinthe was banned in the United States, the liqueur Herbsaint was used instead, and many New Orleans bars still served the drink this same way. In 1950, the owners of the Roosevelt Hotel purchased the rights to the cocktail’s name from the Sazerac company and opened the Sazerac Bar, which became an establishment frequented by many celebrities and famous authors over the years. In 2008, the Louisiana Legislature named the Sazerac the official cocktail of New Orleans, and just 1 year later, the Roosevelt was reopened after the completion of extensive repair work to amend the damage done by Hurricane Katrina. You can still visit it today and drink your Sazerac at the bar of the same name just like Ernest Hemingway, Frank Sinatra, and Judy Garland.

The recipe I’ve used for today’s Sazerac is from Death & Co. in NYC. It has a small amount of cognac added back in to pay homage to the drink’s original roots, as well as a dash of Angostura bitters. The traditional way to prepare a Sazerac involved 2 old-fashioned glasses. The first was filled with ice and the second was actually used to mix the drink. Right before pouring, the ice was dumped from the first glass, and then that glass was rinsed with Absinthe. The contents of the second glass was poured into the first and the drink was served. You can prepare the drink this way to impress your friends as a Sazerac historian or stick with using a mixing glass!

Sazerac (Death & Co. recipe)

1½ oz Rittenhouse Rye 100
½ oz Pierre Ferrand cognac
4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
1 das Angostura bitters
1 tsp demerara syrup (demerara sugar dissolved in water, 2:1 ratio)
Absinthe rinse

Pour a small amount of absinthe into an old-fashioned glass and swirl it around to coat the sides, then discard. Place the remaining ingredients in a mixing glass and fill ⅔ full with ice. Stir 30-45 seconds or until very cold. Strain into the prepared glass. Express a lemon peel over the drink and discard. Serve up (no ice), no garnish. Enjoy!

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