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ThinkingBartender

The Sazerac Cocktail

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Admin: Split from the discussion of Peychaud's Bitters.

Traditionally you are supposed to use rye whisky in a Sazerac, and by this I mean American Rye Whisky (which is a minimum of 51% rye, whereas Canadian Rye just has to APPEAR to have rye, and has no legal minimum requirement).

A quick search of the Internet reveals many recipes for the Sazerac. I am at a

loss to explain the confusions over this simple matter. Sazerac.com is the place

to go, it’s as simple as that, plus they even answer their E-mails.

Erroneous recipes seem hell-bent on shaking the life out of this classic cocktail,

when it is meant to be stirred. There are some fine establishments in the city

of New Orleans that do indeed shake their Sazeracs, but shame on them.

Somehow these propondencies for error end up on the Internet, and one thing

leads to another, and people start believing that this is the correct way to do

things. I have even seen a link to the official Sazerac website on a web page

containing a very incorrect recipe.

Even bartenders and journalists in the great city of New York are mistaken:

”I was sitting at the bar at Pastis, and ordered a Sazerac. The barman muddled

wedges of lemon with pink Peychaud bitters and sugar. He scooped ice into the

glass; poured over bourbon; shook it so quickly his arm was a blur, shattering

the ice into flinty pieces; and strained the drink into a Pernod-stained glass. It

was a great drink, sharp and sweet, with a stiff kick punctuating each sip.”

-May 23rd 2001, The New York Times.

Error seems to plague the majestic Sazerac. Even some well-respected

bartenders make their Sazeracs incorrectly, topping off the glass with plain

water, or soda.

How the Sazerac Cocktail Came to Be

In 1838, Antoine Amedie Peychaud, owner of a New Orleans apothecary,

treated his friends to brandy toddies of his own recipe, including his

“Peychaud’s Bitters,” made from a secret family recipe. The toddies were

made using a double-ended eggcup as a measuring cup or jigger, then known as

a “coquetier” (pronounced “koo-kay-tay”), from which the word “cocktail” was

derived. Thus, the world’s first cocktail was born!

By 1850, the Sazerac Cocktail, made with Sazerac French brandy and

Peychaud’s Bitters, was immensely popular, and became the first “branded”

cocktail.

In 1873, the recipe for the Sazerac Cocktail was altered to replace the French

brandy with American Rye whiskey, and a dash of absinthe was added.

In 1933, the Sazerac Cocktail was bottled and marketed by the Sazerac

Company of New Orleans. That same year, “Herbsaint,” a pastis, was made

according to a French recipe; “Herbsaint” was so named for the New Orleans

term for wormwood - “Herb Sainte.”

In 1940, the Official Sazerac Cocktail recipe was modified to use Herbsaint as

the absinthe.

Finally, in 2000, the Official Sazerac Cocktail recipe was modified to use

Sazerac Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey - or - Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight

Bourbon Whiskey.

’Official’ Sazerac Cocktail

Take two heavy-bottomed 3 1/2-oz. bar glasses; fill one with cracked ice and

allow it to chill while placing a lump of sugar with just enough water to

moisten it. Crush the saturated lump of sugar with a bar spoon. Add a few

drops of Peychaud's Bitters, a jigger of rye whisky and several lumps of ice and

stir briskly. Empty the first glass of ice, dash in several drops of Herbsaint,

swirl the glass rapidly and shake out the absinthe. Enough of it will cling to the

glass to impart the desired flavour. Strain into this glass the rye whisky mixture

prepared in the other glass. Twist a lemon peel over the glass, but do not put it

in the drink.

Cheers!

George

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As we all like to "improve" cocktail recipes, here is my version of the Sazerac...

George’s Sazerac

2 shots straight rye whiskey

2 dashes of Peychauds Bitters

2 dashes of Pernod/ Ricard

¼ shot sugar syrup

Stir with ice, and then strain into a chilled whisky glass (keep them in the

freezer), that has been rinsed out beforehand with Herbsaint. Squeeze the oil

from a lemon twist onto the surface of the finished cocktail, and then discard

the spent twist, it is not added to the drink as a garnish.

Cheers!

George (02:15)

p.s. yes, I just got home.

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How the Sazerac Cocktail Came to Be

In 1838, Antoine Amedie Peychaud, owner of a New Orleans apothecary,

treated his friends to brandy toddies of his own recipe, including his

“Peychaud’s Bitters,” made from a secret family recipe. The toddies were

made using a double-ended eggcup as a measuring cup or jigger, then known as

a “coquetier” (pronounced “koo-kay-tay”), from which the word “cocktail” was

derived. Thus, the world’s first cocktail was born!

By 1850, the Sazerac Cocktail, made with Sazerac French brandy and

Peychaud’s Bitters, was immensely popular, and became the first “branded”

cocktail.

In 1873, the recipe for the Sazerac Cocktail was altered to replace the French

brandy with American Rye whiskey, and a dash of absinthe was added.

I must jump in to point out that this is the Sazerac Company's official history, and like most such things is to be taken with a grain of salt. A very large grain of salt. The first mention of the "Cocktail" comes in 1806 (32 years before Peychaud's supposed invention), in a newspaper in Hudson, New York, which indicates that it's a mixture of liquor, bitters, sugar and water; by the 1820s, it's being listed as one of the most popular drinks in New York City. (There's other evidence I won't get into that points to a Hudson Valley origin.)

That's not even the real beginning of the story, though--the mixture of bitters and liquor was a popular one from the mid-the 18th century on, both in England and the Colonies. In 1745, when Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, went to the chopping block for his part in the Jacobite Rebellion, he fortified himself with a shot of "burnt brandy" and "Stoughton bitters" (Stoughton's Elixir was the first patent bitters; Richard Stoughton registered the brand in England in 1712)--not far from a cocktail, if a very dry one (unless that burnt brandy was sweetened, as it often was). Equally popular were the mixture of liquor and sugar and water, and sugar and bitters--and here we're talking the drinkable kind of bitters, not the super-concentrated kind we're used to today. I've got no idea when all this came together in one glass, but I'm sure it was before 1806, and it was definitely before 1838.

As for the Sazerac itself--the funny thing about it is that it's nothing but a "Whiskey Cocktail" as it was made in the mid-19th century all over America and in "American Bars" all over the world: simple or "gum/gomme" syrup, bitters--Peychaud's were a popular brand--and rye whiskey, stirred with ice (which replaced the water in Cocktails by the late 1830s) and finished with a twist of lemon peel. Even the absinthe was a popular addition, and not just in New Orleans: it was a very trendy ingredient in the 1870s, and many "Sports" took their Cocktails, whatever kind they preferred, with a dash of absinthe. (Swirling it around the glass might be a bit of original New Orleans flair, though).

For me, the cool thing about the Sazerac is that New Orleans has kept this Victorian survivor current, where everybody else in America has forgotten it. You gotta love that.

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The New Orleans Sazerac...

While recently down in New Orleans for the "Tales Of The Cocktail" event, I made a point of trying a Sazerac at most, if not all, of the bars I visited. New Orleans is, after all, the home of the Sazerac, so who should do it better?

I'm sure that "somewhere" in New Orleans there are bartenders who really know how to do this drink properly, but on this trip I never encountered one. While out with the "gang", we visited one bar and when I asked for a Sazerac, they replied: "Sorry, we don't have that here"... even though they did have all of the necessary ingredients. So instead we all just had Absente drips instead.

At another bar (the Merry-go-Round one :-) Audrey and I ordered a Sazerac, and it was so sweet that we promptly ordered a shot of rye to add to the drink... still too sweet.

"Too Sweet"... this was to be the reoccuring theme throughout all of the Sazeracs I was to have. I assume this is because the bartenders are trying to alter the recipe in order to make this drink more "approachable" to the masses. I say: "If you don't like a cocktail the way it is 'supposed' to taste, then order something else, it's not like there is a limited selection or something"

Here is how I make my Sazeracs:

  • Place some ice in a small Old Fashioned glass to chill it.
  • Remove the ice. This is the only time that ice plays a roll in this drink. Back when the Sazerac was first invented, there was no such thing as ice machines, much less refrigerators. Ice was a precious commodity, and most likely this drink was not chilled in the slightest.
  • Using an atomizer filled with Absinthe (or an appropriate Absinthe substitute), spray the insides of the glass 3 or 4 times to coat.
  • Pour a "small puddle" of simple syrup into the glass. I think I probably use about a teaspoon.
  • Add three or four healthy dashes of Peychaud bitters. Remember, Antoine Peychaud made these bitters as a "health toinc", and so he would have wanted to make sure folks got enough of their benefits! :->
  • Pour in a measure (2 oz) of Rye Whiskey. No... not "Canadian" whisky, that isn't rye. I'm talking good old-fashioned American Rye Whiskey.
  • Squeeze a zest of lemon over the drink, rub the rim of the glass with the yellow of the zest, then drop it into the drink.

Serve...

Properly done, a Sazerac should be a "contemplative" cocktail. When I drink one I can picture myself dressed in a smoking jacket, sitting in a dark wood library in front of the fire, and enjoying the peace and quiet after a long day at work.

-Robert

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I was more interested in the evolution of the Sazeracs ingredients, rather than its claims. They (the Sazerac co.) claim that the Sazerac was the first "Branded" cocktail. But the language is a little confusing when it comes to the "claim" that it was the first cocktail. I think that that paragraph is just badly laid out, and that they are trying to provide an anecdote for the word cocktail, but have carelessly combined it with something else. They do say that the word cocktail comes from the egg-shaped jigger.

Why would you differentiate your cocktail from another by calling it the Sazerac cocktail, if it were the original cocktail, which it isn't.

The Sazerac started out as a "brandy cocktail", then changed to whisky. Or did it not?

I am sure that it must be able to re-create pre-ice cocktails to an agreeable standard. Chilled water, rye, bitters, syrup.

I made a nice drink with a double shot of millers gin, vanilla syrup, and chilled water. I will have to try a whisky version with bitters. But will we then argue about whether Evian or Badiot is the correct mineral water to use. or Volvic? or Imsdal?

:wacko:

George

Q: Has anyone every been to the doctor complaining of an egg-shaped jigger?

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The New Orleans Sazerac...

Properly done, a Sazerac should be a "contemplative" cocktail. When I drink one I can picture myself dressed in a smoking jacket, sitting in a dark wood library in front of the fire, and enjoying the peace and quiet after a long day at work.

-Robert

Sounds nice; although I might subsitute a silk chemise for the smoking jacket... or maybe a silk chemise with a smoking jacket...

Agree that too sweet Sazeracs are an abomination.


Edited by ludja (log)

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Sounds nice; although I might subsitute a silk chemise for the smoking jacket... or maybe a silk chemise with a smoking jacket...

Agree that too sweet Sazeracs are an abomination.

Tried one tonite with Old Overholt Rye. Any better rye I should look for? GF and SO liked it so I guess we are Cocktail people now as we slowly expand our drink list. I already hold the Martini title in our circle. :biggrin::biggrin:


Edited by winesonoma (log)

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Tried one tonite with Old Overholt Rye. Any better rye I should look for? GF and SO liked it so I guess we are Cocktail people now as we slowly expand our drink list. I already hold the Martini title in our circle. :biggrin:  :biggrin:

I like it with Old Overholt because it's such a bad-ass bottle of booze, but the van Winkle family reserve rye will make a spendy but smooth and spicey Sazerac in my book (in general I mix it into Manhattans). If you like more corn in your rye whiskey, then Wild Turkey makes one you may like...I find it too sweet and too close to bourbon to be worth the bother (I like bourbon, mind you, just not when I open a bottle of rye).

regards,

trillium

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George--

You're right, of course. I'm so sick of bullshit cocktail history at this point that I'm hypersensitive to it, and am liable to go off on a historical rant at the drop of a coquetier.

Robert--

No ice? That's a very old cocktail indeed.

Trillium--

Agreed about the Van Winkle; it makes the best Sazeracs I've ever had. I do like the Wild Turkey, though. And if you can get your mitts on a bottle of the bonded Rittenhouse Rye, it makes the most wonderful cocktails.

P.S.

Here's how I make a Sazerac, FWIW. This is pretty much the turn-of-the-last-century way.

Place an Old-Fashioned glass in the freezer, or fill it with ice and set it to chill.

In a standard mixing glass, combine:

--1 teaspoon simple syrup (I use a rich syrup made with 2 parts demerara sugar

to 1 part water)

--2-3 dashes Peychaud's bitters

--2 oz Van Winkle Family Reserve Straight Rye Whiskey

--A lot of cracked ice

Stir vigorously for 15 seconds or so, remove the glass from the freezer, swirl a splash of absinthe (no substitute) around the inside of the glass--you can do this by tossing the glass up in the air with a little English on it; I saw a guy at Tujague's do that a couple of times and it's the best bit of flair I know--and pour it out. Strain the cocktail into the glass and twist a long swatch of thin-cut lemon peel over the top. Heaven.

--DW

P.P.S. You can alsi use Peychaud's to make a Metropole, named after the NY Gambler's hotel of the 1900s and 1910s:

Stir well with cracked ice:

1 1/2 oz cognac

1 1/2 oz Noilly Prat dry vermouth

2 dashes orange bitters

1 dash Peychaud's bitters

Strain into chilled cocktail glass and add maraschino cherry

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Robert--

No ice? That's a very old cocktail indeed.

Yeah... not sure if it would then be more appropriate to instead add a splash of water to it or not, but I got used to drinking them this way, and I think that the combined robustness of flavors just works really well without any dilution. Besides, I think it just adds to that "contemplative nature" that I find so alluring, and just a little sensual, in this drink. But I've also had it stirred with ice to chill and dilute it, which is also quite nice.
...(I use a rich syrup made with 2 parts demerara sugar to 1 part water)...

I've also been doing this ever since I heard you mention it some time back. It definately adds a nice little bit of extra depth which is nice.
...swirl a splash of absinthe (no substitute)...

I should try a side-by-side with Absinthe and Herbsaint, and Absente to see if the difference in such a small amount is detectable behind the other flavors.

But with the 'sudden' easy availability of Absinthe that is orderable online (or even purchaseable at "Duty Free" shops in various countries), there is no excuse for any cocktail enthusiast not to have a bottle of "the real stuff" available for things like this.

I "just' got in a shipment of the new Jade Liqueur's Absinthes (by Ted Breaux, info at www.VintageAbsinthe.com). I ordered it last Thursday, and it got here today (Monday)... Ted said they shipped fast, but that is -real- fast. Can't wait to get home and give it a try.

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I made mine with Henri Bourdain Pastis. Should I go for a more pronounced Anise flavor?


Edited by winesonoma (log)

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I made mine with Henri Bourdain Pastis. Should I go for a more pronounced Anise flavor?

Real Absinthe does not have a "pronounced" Anise flavor, just like real gin does not have a "pronounced" juniper flavor. It might be the "prodominant" flavor, but there is a lot more going on then just that. I think Absente is one of the better Absinthe substitutes available, and in-so-much as every absinthe tastes a little bit different, it works quite well.

-Robert

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I made mine with Henri Bourdain Pastis. Should I go for a more pronounced Anise flavor?

Ahh. Henri Bourdain Pastis. Way more complex and herbalicious then Herbsaint. If it were me, I wouldn't bother switching to something else, but I don't have a bottle of real absinthe in my bar.

regards,

trillium

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Admin: Threads merged.

I did some searching and I am amazed that we have no Sazerac thread.

The Sazerac is probably the preeminent New Orleans cocktail. Gumbopage link

I prefer mine with an orange peel (flamed), Angostura (1dash or Hess bitters) and Peychaud (2dash) and have recently been making them using I believe Dale's recipe of 50/50 rye/Cognac (brandy) and have been pleased with the results. So how do you make your Sazarac?

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I've been doing Sazaracs and their close kin a bunch recently... maybe it is just that I love that black licorice flavor in everything... but as to the how?

I take a glass and put in a teaspoonful of sugar into it. Onto the sugar goes 2 shakes of peychaud's and a few drops of pastis. There is enough liquid in with the sugar that the whole mass will slowly flow and stick to the walls of the glass if you tilt it and turn it around with enough patience. Once the entire inside of the glass has an even coating of sugar, in go 3 ice cubes and 2 oz of bourbon. I sometimes like a little fizz on top as well. No citrus gets anywhere near my Sazerac.

While Sazaracs are a fine drink when made with rye, I don't understand the aversion to bourbon in the mix. I think it complements the anise's sweetness quite well.


Edited by cdh (log)

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While Sazaracs are a fine drink when made with rye, I don't understand the aversion to bourbon in the mix.  I think it complements the anise's sweetness quite well.

I have had many a fine Sazerac made with bourbon no aversion here.

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I've been making these recently as well.

I typically use bourbon.

I swirl a tsp of Herbsaint around in the glass and then crush a lump of sugar onto which 2 dashes of Peychaud's bitters are splashed. Rotate glass to disperse sugar mix. Add a twisted strip of lemon zest, fill the glass with crushed ice and pour in 2 oz of Bourbon. Stir gently to mix. Sip, enjoy and think of the great times I've had in New Orleans. In my mind, plan my next trip there.

(adapted from recipe in "Bill Neal's Southern Cooking".)


Edited by ludja (log)

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Just recently got my Peychauds bitters. I have been using the method from the sazerac web site. Coat a rocks glass with the pastis. In a mixing glass add one lump of sugar, a little water and two dashes of the Peychaud's. Muddle this. Than add some ice and 2 oz or borboun or rye. I like the borboun better. Stir it to chill and strain into the pastis coated glass. No ice in the glass, though I think I may try a little next time. Lemon twist.

I like this alot and I think it is an example of what a cocktail really is, will try some of the other versions to see what I like best.

Matt, you like the brandy and borboun mix best? Have to try that.

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While Sazaracs are a fine drink when made with rye, I don't understand the aversion to bourbon in the mix.  I think it complements the anise's sweetness quite well.

I have had many a fine Sazerac made with bourbon no aversion here.

I just had to comment on the gumbopages bold!!!! exhortation to never use bourbon...

Glad I'm not alone.

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IMO, anything made with any base spirit but cognac or rye whiskey is "Sazerac-like" but isn't quite a Sazerac.

I personally like mine with rye, two big dashes of Peychaud's, a rinse of absinthe, a little sugar and a fat lemon peel twisted and dropped into the glass.

In the Sazerac-like category, I've enjoyed a similar drink made with Laird's 12 year old apple brandy -- first introduced to me by Phil and Chad at Flatiron Lounge.

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While Sazaracs are a fine drink when made with rye, I don't understand the aversion to bourbon in the mix.  I think it complements the anise's sweetness quite well.

I have had many a fine Sazerac made with bourbon no aversion here.

I just had to comment on the gumbopages bold!!!! exhortation to never use bourbon...

Glad I'm not alone.

Well, I'm glad you enjoy them that way. You just might want to call them something else, because a Sazerac is made with either rye or cognac. :smile:

I'm quite the traditionalist when it comes to this drink, I'm afraid ... but it's not just knee-jerk traditionalism. The spiciness of the rye balances the sweetness of the anise and the tidbit of sugar, helping to create the stunning multi-layered symphony of flavor that is a Sazerac. To me, the sweeter, honeyed notes of many Bourbons throws that off.

Plus, what the world needs now is more rye cocktails, and not classic rye cocktails that have been converted to Bourbon cocktails! (We've certainly got more than enough of those.)

Truth is, 99.9% of the Sazeracs served in New Orleans are made with rye whiskey (with perhaps one exception, a prominent restaurant that is Practicall Perfect In Every Other Way, with this one aberration seeming, to me, completely bizarre), and that too is good enough for me.

On preview, "Sazerac-like" is a fair enough description. I've heard of some people making them with rum, too. (Zoinks.)

As always, "drink what you like" ... but at my house you get 'em with a big, spicy rye! :cool:

Cheers,

Chuck

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Truth is, 99.9% of the Sazeracs served in New Orleans are made with rye whiskey. . .

I suppose I might as well also mention, unfortunate as it is, that most people who care and can tell the difference tell me that 99.9% of the Sazeracs they've had in New Orleans bars weren't very good -- and these are people who were out looking for a good one. I haven't been out on a New Orleans Sazerac quest, but this does in general align with my experiences of NO mixology. Perhaps when this great city gets its feet under itself again, we may see the Museum of the American Cocktail and other influences spark a resurgance of classic mixology there.

This doesn't have any particular bearing on the question of base spirit, but does have something to say about where one should look for authority in matters such as this.

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I would like to try the cocktail made with rye; thanks for the commentary. Any rye whiskeys you or others would recommend for this drink?

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I suppose I might as well also mention, unfortunate as it is, that most people who care and can tell the difference tell me that 99.9% of the Sazeracs they've had in New Orleans bars weren't very good

For what it is worth, when I visited New Orleans two years ago, I had fine Sazeracs in the hotel bar at Le Richelieu and at dba on Frenchman street.

The bartender at Le Richelieu, while a bit grumpy that we asked him to make Sazeracs, took the whole ritual very seriously.

Some of the others weren't so great.

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I would like to try the cocktail made with rye; thanks for the commentary.  Any rye whiskeys you or others would recommend for this drink?

Have a look at the thread: All About Rye Whiskey. The Sazerac is a cocktail that really allows the qualities of the base spirit to come to the fore, so it's a good one to mix with just about any rye of quality.

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