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The Sazerac

The Sazerac

Entry Date: April 2011

About the Drink (From Wikipedia)

The Sazerac is a local New Orleans variation of an old-fashioned cognac or whiskey cocktail, named for the Sazerac de Forge et Fils brand of cognac that was its original prime ingredient. The drink is some combination of cognac, rye whiskey, absinthe or Herbsaint, and Peychaud's Bitters and distinguished by its preparation method. It is sometimes referred to as the oldest known American cocktail, with origins in pre-Civil War New Orleans, Louisiana, though there are much earlier mentions of the cocktail in print.
Around 1850, Sewell T. Taylor sold his bar, The Merchants Exchange Coffee House, and went into the imported liquor business. He began to import a brand of cognac named Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils. At the same time, Aaron Bird took over the Merchants Exchange and changed its name to the Sazerac House and began serving the "Sazerac Cocktail," made with Taylor's Sazerac cognac and, legend has it, the bitters being made down the street by a local druggist, Antoine Amedie Peychaud. The Sazerac House changed hands several times and around 1870 Thomas Handy took over as proprietor. Around this time the primary ingredient changed from cognac to rye whiskey due to the phylloxera epidemic in Europe that devastated France's wine grape crops. At some point before his death in 1889, Handy recorded the recipe for cocktail and the drink made its first printed appearance in William T. "Cocktail Bill" Boothby's 1908 edition of his "The World's Drinks and How to Mix Them," though this recipe calls for Selner Bitters, not Peychaud's. Eventually absinthe was banned, though it is now legal again, and was replaced by various anise-flavored spirits, including the locally-produced Herbsaint.

The drink is a simple variation on a plain whiskey or cognac "Cock-Tail" (alcohol, sugar, water and bitters) and could have been ordered in any latter 19th Century bar in the U.S. as a Whiskey Cocktail with a dash of absinthe. It was this type of variation to the cocktail that caused patrons not interested in the new complexities of cocktails to request their drinks done the Old Fashioned way. By the early 20th Century, vermouth was fairly prevalent, and simple cocktails like the Sazerac had become a somewhat rare curiosity, which aided its popularity.

The creation of the Sazerac has also been credited to Antoine Amadie Peychaud, the Creole apothecary 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 dispensed a proprietary mix of aromatic bitters from an old family recipe. According to legend he served his drink in the large end of an egg cup that was called a coquetier in French, and that the Americanized pronunciation of this as "cocktail" gave this type of drink its name. However, the word cocktail predates this by decades, first appearing in print in 1803, and first defined in print in 1806 as "a mixture of spirits of any kind, water, sugar and bitters, vulgarly called a bittered sling."

Preferred Formulations

Dale DeGroff, ICE Master Judge
“2 or 3 Dashes Peychauds Bitters
1 or 2 sugar cubes or teaspoon sugar
1 splash water (just to dissolve the sugar)
1 ounces (30ml) Rye Whiskey
1 ounces (30ml) Cognac Brandy
Splash of Absinthe
Lemon peel garnish


Take 2 rocks glasses, fill one with ice to chill while preparing the drink in the other.
Muddle the sugar and bitters and splash of soda in the second glass until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the cognac and the rye whiskey and several ice cubes and stir to chill.
Toss the ice out of the first glass and splash in the Absinthe and swirl it to coat the inside of the glass and then toss the remaining Absinthe.
Strain the prepared drink into the absinthe coated glass and garnish with a lemon peel."

Jamie Boudreau, ICE Master Judge
"Glass #1
Fill old-fashioned glass with ice
Add 1/2 oz Pacifique absinthe
Stir 30 times and let sit

Glass #2
2 oz Rittenhouse bonded Rye
1/4 oz rich simple syrup
3 dashes Bitter Truth Creole bitters
Stir with ice

Quickly dump out glass one (retaining a hefty coat of absinthe)
Strain Glass #2 into Glass #1
Zest a lemon over drink, rimming edge of glass with the peel
Discard the peel and serve "

Ryan Magarian, ICE Master Judge
“2 oz. Old Overholt Rye Whiskey or Hennessy VS Cognac
1/4 oz. 1:1 Simple Syrup
3 dashes Peychauds Bitters
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Begin by chilling a small tumbler with crushed ice; set aside
In a mixing glass, add spirit, syrup, and bitters, fill glass with ice, and
stir swiftly for 20 seconds
Empty ice from tumbler and carefully mist with absinthe (I use an atomizer)
Strain cocktail into misted glass, aromatize with a lemon peel which is then
placed on the napkin next to the drink upon service"

LeNell Smothers, ICE Master Judge
"Two heavy bottomed glasses at least 3.5 ounces
Sugar cube or ½ teaspoon superfine sugar
Peychaud bitters
Angostura bitters
1 1/4 ounce American straight rye whiskey
1 1/4 ounce Cognac
Lemon peel

Fill one of the glasses with ice and water to chill. (If you pre-plan, you could just have an empty glass waiting for you in the freezer that’s had about an hour to get good and cold.)
In the other glass, add the sugar and saturate it with 3 or so dashes of Peychaud and a drop or more of the Angostura.
Muddle the sugar and bitters to make a slurry. Some folks add a drop of water to help melt the sugar, but I prefer to add enough bitters to moisten it good enough.
Add the whiskey and cognac and a few lumps of ice
Stir to chill slightly. (Never shake this drink!)
Take your chilled glass and rinse it with a little of the absinthe. Pour out the excess (unless you are a freak like me and like a little puddled in the bottom of your glass). You just want a little of the flavor.
Strain the whiskey mixture into this coated glass.
Finish off with a twist of lemon over it, rub the peel around the rim, and then throw the peel away. I sip my Sazeracs instead of gulp so if that lemon peel sits too long it starts tasting like furniture polish to me."

Gary Regan, ICE Master Judge
"15 ml (.5 oz) absinthe
60 ml (2 oz) straight rye whiskey
15 ml (.5 oz) simple syrup
3 dashes Peychaud's bitters
1 lemon twist, for garnish

Rinse a chilled old-fashioned glass with the absinthe, add crushed ice and
set it aside.
Stir the remaining ingredients over ice and set it aside.
Discard the ice and any excess absinthe from the prepared glass, and strain
the drink into the glass.
Add the garnish"