The Sazerac

This is an absolutely exquisite drink, the holy grail of cocktails! And, no, it’s not a man’s drink! I know plenty of girls (I’m one of them) who’d take one of these every time over some of the bellywash we see men drinking these days…

As you sip it, you come across layer after layer of flavor — the warmth and glowing burn of the rye, effused with the flavors of spice and honey, the bite of the bitters balanced with the sweetness of the sugar, with the subtle yet complex flavor of the anise underneath and the perfume of the lemon oil from the twist feel like a symphony inside your mouth.

Sit back, relax and enjoy the greatest cocktail in the world. (Sorry, Martini…).

The roots

Although it’s not the most widely known drink, the Sazerac is both delicious and America’s oldest cocktail. Is it any surprise that America’s first cocktail, the Sazerac, was created in New Orleans, the city that loves to party?

So it is said that this drink was invented by Antoine Amadie Peychaud, a Creole pharmacist who moved to New Orleans from the West Indies and set up shop in the French Quarter in the early part of the 19th Century. He would prepare a mix of aromatic bitters from an old family recipe, to relieve the ails of his clients. It consisted of French brandy mixed with his secret blend of bitters, a splash of water and a bit of sugar.

Before long, the demand for this drink led to its being served in bars throughout the city (euphemistically called “coffee houses” in those days).

Peychaud named his famous drink after his favorite French brandy, Sazerac-de-Forge et fils. But that drink had to be laid to rest eventually, due to the brandy shortage brought about by the phylloxera epidemic that destroyed European vineyards in the late 19th century. With no cognac to play with, straight rye whiskey became the base for the concoction, and it worked well with the locally produced Peychaud’s Bitters.

Somewhere along the line a dash of absinthe was added, usually used to coat the glass with the excess discarded. Eventually absinthe was banned and was replaced by the locally-produced pastis called Herbsaint – and history was made!

And speaking of rye … get rye whiskey for this drink. Do not use Bourbon. Don’t get me wrong, I love Bourbon. It’s simply wrong for this drink – too much sweetness, not enough spice. I believe that if you’ve got something that’s wonderful, that’s real, and right, and true … you leave it alone.

The makin’s
1 Sugar cube
3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 parts Rye Whiskey
1 slice lemon peel

The drill
Rinse a chilled rocks glass with absinthe, discarding any excess, and set aside
In a mixing glass, muddle the sugar cube and both bitters
Add the rye, fill with ice and stir
Strain into the prepared glass
Twist a slice of lemon peel over the surface to extract the oils


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