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ThinkingBartender

The Sazerac Cocktail

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Sazarac 18 is a rather expensive but logical way to start. It might be wise to also have a less dear bottle on hand to experiment with. The Mictners Straight Rye is wonderful. If you are in need of a wee bit more hair on your chest the Rittenhouse 100 is amazing, and will still intrigue your tastebuds if you've had a couple. But since Ryes are so varied it really comes down to personal preferance. Try them all, try mixing them.

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

Cognac and rye. Never tried bourbon and brandy only straight bourbon which as has been stated is not a real Sazerac, sounds interesting (b/b), I will give it a try.


Edited by M.X.Hassett (log)

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tried the straight cognac version and was, well, underwhelmed. had my first at Pegu Club and came home to replicate what i found was a tremendous drink. read that it was orignally made with brandy, so i had to try it. eh... gimme rye everytime.

although i did enjoy a 50-50 mix: spiciness from the rye, grape-skinnyness from the cognac. not the same without the spicyness, though.

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Thank you for the information on the ryes; it will be interesting to compare the drink when made with rye vs. bourbon.

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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.

I make them like Dave, though, since the Family Reserve is so hard to come by these days, I use the Wild Turkey Rye. It's a nice, spicy, fiery spirit that really lights up the glass.

I'll be interested in the results of using the new Sazerac 6 Year rye for Sazeracs some time in the very near future.


Edited by eje (log)

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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.

Sad but true, in most bars but especially in the namesake bar, the Sazerac Bar at the Fairmont (formerly Roosevelt) Hotel. The bartenders there, apparently tired of having to (go figure) make Sazeracs all day long, prepare a premixed simple syrup and add bitters to it, mendaciously claiming that a shot of that syrup contains the requisite amount of bitters. Not only is that untrue, but it also makes for a teeth-shatteringly oversweet Sazerac.

Dr. Cocktail has been able to order a decent Sazerac there, but only after sending back two nasty premixed attempts by the regular bartender, insisting on having one made from scratch, then having the bar manager make one from scratch himself. Seems an awfully annoying amount of trouble to go through to get a drink.

In my experience (and I have done Sazeracs quests), I find that by far the finest ones to be had are in restaurants. My favorites -- Bayona, Clancy's and Galatoire's if you tell them to leave out the ice, the only aberration of any kind I find at Galatoire's ... I just have to remember to ask for my Sazeracs straight up just like I always ask for our regular waiter John to take care of us.

That said, all those great restaurant Sazeracs (save perhaps one, which is odd) are made with rye.

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Chuck, I recently spent the better part of a Saturday afternoon in Tujague's for a story that I was working on. It was a slow afternoon, not much traffic in the Quarter or through the door at Tujague's. One thing that was happening though was that thirsty supplicants were coming through the door, in ones and twos (apparently, Sazerac's are a medicinal need) and ordering up Sazeracs. They would knock one back, maybe two, and be on their way. The afternoon drinkers seemed to be only ordering Sazeracs, as if they were on a mission or something. There must be something to it, I thought, so I observed the cocktail operation for a while.

The woman behind the bar expertly prepared them from dead scratch-she did it efficiently but with a very reassuring amount of care and skill. I have to tell you that I actually hung around for an extra hour just to watch her ply her trade (yes, yes, she was a very attractive woman but that had NOTHING to do with this particular project. I remained, and remain, a highly trained professional). Her drinks were all EXACTLY alike, made with a degree of precision that is, sadly, often lacking in New Orleans drinking establishments. I would reccomend Tujague's Sazeracs both for the setting (gorgeous bar where men have been drinking for a very, very long time) and for the quality of the pour.

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Okay all of you experts, I have two questions:

1) Why the swirling of the Herbesaint/Pastis and then dumping, instead of just adding the appropriate amount (whatever that may be) in the first place? Is it some sort of Sazerac mystique or does it really make a difference?

2) I've seen recipes that call for both Peychaud and Angostura bitters to be added since they're supposed to have different qualities/tastes. Anyone ever do that or should only one be added?

Edited for grammar.


Edited by divalasvegas (log)

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As a matter of fact, the place I mentioned above, adds both bitters to the glass.

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1) Why the swirling of the Herbesaint/Pastis and then dumping, instead of just adding the appropriate amount (whatever that may be) in the first place?  Is is some sort of Sazerac mystique or does it really make a difference?

For a few reasons. First, there is the tradition and showmanship element. Second, swirling absinthe around to coat the inside of the glass and discarding the excess is a useful way to get just the right amount of absinthe. Third, when you coat the inside of a glass with a liqueur and pour the drink in over that coating, the rinse infuses into the drink somewhat differently than it would if you simply added a few dashes to the mixing glass.

2) I've seen recipes that call for both Peychaud and Angostura bitters to be added since they're supposed to have different qualities/tastes.  Anyone ever do that or should only one be added?

As far as I know, Peychaud's only is traditional. And for sure you need Peychaud's bitters to make a Sazerac. Can't make one without Peychaud's bitters. But there's no harm in adding a dash of another bitters in addition, and a lot of people prefer it that way, myself included.

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Okay all of you experts, I have two questions:

1) Why the swirling of the Herbesaint/Pastis and then dumping, instead of just adding the appropriate amount (whatever that may be) in the first place?  Is it some sort of Sazerac mystique or does it really make a difference?

If you're familiar with wine, basically what you're doing here is seasoning the glassware. Just many recipes forget to add the rest in between adding the pastis and the rest of the ingredients.

Have you ever smelled a glass that once held pastis? It's really a very pleasant aroma. By coating the inside of the glass with pastis and allowing it to dry, you can add an interesting aroma component to the drink, providing that you leave a healthy rim on the glass.

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Thanks Samuel. Showmanship is a perfect reason to do it :smile: and I never knew that the swirling technique affected the infusion. Glad to learn something new.

And thanks Mayhaw Man, I think I'd like to try using the two bitters. I've never had rye whiskey so I'll be looking for a reasonably priced brand.

Unfortunately, the personnel at the stores I usually go to aren't very knowledgeable in general. They're always saying, "try this, it's really, really good!" with no explanation of why it's good, usually telling me that "a lot of my customers like it!" or something like that. Any reasonably priced brands of rye whiskey out there?

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Any reasonably priced brands of rye whiskey out there?

Have a look at the thread All About Rye Whiskey and ask around. There are plenty of excellent, reasonably priced rye whiskeys on the market. Indeed, rye whiskey is probably the best bargain for the money in liquor today.

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By coating the inside of the glass with pastis and allowing it to dry, you can add an interesting aroma component to the drink, providing that you leave a healthy rim on the glass.

Wow mbanu the swirling of the pastis and letting it dry sounds so cool and makes a whole lot of sense. Thanks. :smile: That's a neat trick probably best sampled at home since I can't imagine that many bartenders would want to coat the glass and then keep checking it to see if it's dry before they finish making the drink.

Have a look at the thread All About Rye Whiskey and ask around.  There are plenty of excellent, reasonably priced rye whiskeys on the market.  Indeed, rye whiskey is probably the best bargain for the money in liquor today.

Thanks so much Samuel. I just took a quick peek at that thread and it packs a lot of information. Sazerac, here I come! And believe me, by the end of this week I'll need it. :rolleyes:

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By coating the inside of the glass with pastis and allowing it to dry, you can add an interesting aroma component to the drink, providing that you leave a healthy rim on the glass.

Wow mbanu the swirling of the pastis and letting it dry sounds so cool and makes a whole lot of sense. Thanks. :smile: That's a neat trick probably best sampled at home since I can't imagine that many bartenders would want to coat the glass and then keep checking it to see if it's dry before they finish making the drink.

FWIW, letting the absinthe or absinthe-substitute dry to the inside of the glass is not the standard technique. Actually, I'm not aware of any cocktail where the glass is rinsed and allowed to dry (although of course there may be some of which I am unaware).

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Because I'm lazy:

I see that the earliest recipe mentioned here used sugar instead of simple syrup. Is everyone absolutely agreed (as I fear they are) that simple syrup is preferable? (I can't really figure how sugar would even work, I'm afraid to say.)

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I don't see why you couldn't use regular sugar. You'd just have to make sure you stirred everything together long enough to dissolve the sugar before adding ice.

Simple syrup is often preferred simply because it's easier. It's easy to measure and you don't have to worry aboud dissolving.

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Update: I went to the liquor store I usually patronize last night, fully intending to purchase the ingredients for this drink. But unfortunately I had a couple of setbacks. First of all, they had the pernod and angostura bitters; however no rye whiskey and no peychaud bitters. :angry: Secondly, I must admit to having a bit of sticker shock since the pernod was approximately $33.00 for a 750 ml bottle and the angostura bitters were around $10-11.00, so about $45.00 for only half of the main ingredients. I suppose it wouldn't be too unreasonable to figure that I might end up paying double for all of the ingredients for a drink which I hope I'll like. I just can't justify that in my current budget, so no homemade Sazerac :sad: for now. Also, the price of the pernod really killed it for me since that licorice flavor is something that I can take in certain things, for instance star anise in five spice powder, but I know that for sure it's the not the sort of flavor I'd enjoy sipping on it's own. I'll just have to find a local place with the right ingredients and a bartender who knows how to make a proper one.

Thanks for all of information in any case.

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Secondly, I must admit to having a bit of sticker shock since the pernod was approximately $33.00 for a 750 ml bottle and the angostura bitters were around $10-11.00, so about $45.00 for only half of the main ingredients.

You was had. $10 for angostura? Extortionate! $33 for pernod is also quite high. Those prices are about 50% higher than you should be paying. If you're in the DC area, take a drive out into Maryland's countryside on the way north... the land of cheap booze.


Edited by cdh (log)

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Also, the price of the pernod really killed it for me since that licorice flavor is something that I can take in certain things, for instance star anise in five spice powder, but I know that for sure it's the not the sort of flavor I'd enjoy sipping on it's own.  I'll just have to find a local place with the right ingredients and a bartender who knows how to make a proper one.

Thanks for all of information in any case.

I don't know about the liquor stores where you are, but I can often find Pernod in mini (aka airline) bottles. Per ounce, of course, it's expensive, but if all you want to do is try a Sazerac, it's a good way to go.

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Useless Boasting

I somehow seem to have a bottle of real absynthe in my closet. I'm happy to use it in a cocktail like this, cuz when I try to drink it just deluted with water, it gives me the worst hangovers I've had since I tried to down entire bottles of tequila by myself (well, not really by myself: in groups where each of us tried to down his or her own bottle) in college.

Too bad I have to go all the way to the Pegu Club, and subject myself to some wonderful cocktails, in order to buy a bottle of Peychaud's, thought.

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Thanks cdh since I had a feeling that I was being had which is why I said something like $THIRTY TWO NINETY NINE????? :shock: for the pernod to the store clerk (nice guy, but just not very informative) and then when he pulled the angostura bitters from the shelf and said, I believe, $10.99--pre DC taxes BTW--that was it. I told him that I would not be buying either of those. Also, as I said before, they didn't have the rye whiskey or peychaud bitters.

JAZ I'll keep on the lookout for the mini bottles of pernod. Thanks for the tip.

BTW, this was a downtown K Street DC liquor store and at some point in the conversation with the store clerk (again, nice guy and part owner with whom I have a pretty cordial relationship) he had to admit that Northern Virginia often carries a lot of stuff at lower prices than they do.

The search will continue and updates will follow. :smile:


Edited by divalasvegas (log)

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FWIW, I prefer Absente over Pernod for an absinthe-substitute.

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The search will continue and updates will follow. :smile:

I thought the price for Pernod was expensive, too; but, looked at a local liquor store's website I found it was listed for $26. Ouch.

The current exchange rates for the dollar aren't exactly helping to keep prices low on European goods in the US.

BTW, unless you think you're going to be getting into drinking Pastis or Absinthe, a bottle of Herbsaint, at around $15, will be fine for Sazeracs.

Also, sometimes it can be worth stopping at small liquor stores with somewhat low turnover for things like Pernod. There are a couple liquor stores near where I work that obviously have not updated some of their prices in 5 years or so. I've found some pretty good deals on dusty bottles at the back of shelves.

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