Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Sazerac Cocktail

The Sazerac Cocktail is reputedly America's first real cocktail. Originally made with Cognac, it was an elixir which made fairly heavy use of Peychaud's bitters, which were marketed as a tonic for the stomach.

For those new to Peychaud's bitters, it is a bright red herbal bitters with more sharp flavors than Angostura (which tends to be more rooty) with a distinctive clove character.

A great history of the Sazerac Cocktail is provided here.

I find the standard 1 tsp. sugar recipe a tad too sweet. Also, I find Old Overholt a bit lacking in character, resulting in the same overall impression in a Sazerac cocktail. Based on the results of the rye tasting, my brand of choice for this cocktail is Wild Turkey Rye (101 proof). If you want something around 90 proof, I think that Sazerac Rye edges out Russell's Reserve Rye for use in this drink (although Russell's edged out Sazerac on a stand alone basis).

Although absinthe is recommended, so little is used that I find it hard to get too caught up with this aspect of the cocktail. Herbsaint is traditional as it locally produced in New Orleans. I typically use Granier pastis, our "house brand" (Julie is a big fan of pastis). Finally, I like to discard the lemon peel. While it may feel a tad undergarnished, I enjoy the purity of the resulting cocktail, with the aroma and essential oils of the lemon coating the rim and surface of the liquid.

The Setup (not shown - Hawthorne strainer)

Sazerac Cocktail
2 oz. rye whiskey (Wild Turkey or Sazerac 6y)
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 Tbsp branch water (southern for bottled water)
4-5 dashes Peychaud's bitters
lemon peel
Absinthe, Herbsaint or Pastis

Fill one old-fashioned glass with ice. In a second glass, place sugar and bottled (or otherwise neutral) water and swirl until dissolved. Fill with ice and add rye. Dump ice from the first glass and pour a tiny amount of absinthe (or substitute) and swirl to coat the glass. Discard excess. Stir the rye and ice mixture and strain into the absinthe-coated glass. Twist lemon peel over the drink's surface and rim the glass. Discard peel.

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