Long before the rum-based Hurricane and bad idea-based Hand Grenade, New Orleans was home to one of the modern world’s original cocktails, the Sazerac.
The Sazerac could be considered a close relative of the Old Fashioned. Indeed, each contain similar ingredients, albeit with slight variations. An Old Fashioned contains Bourbon, while the Sazerac favors rye whiskey. Both contain sugar and bitters, but a traditional Old Fashioned tends to use Angostura bitters. while the Sazerac demands New Orleans’s own Peychaud’s Bitters, which was integral in the creation of the drink.
Though a similar Cognac-based drink can be traced to Europe, the popular story is that the New Orleans Sazerac was the brainchild of Antoine Amédée Peychaud, a Creole apothecary from Saint-Domingue, or what is now Haiti. After Peychaud immigrated to New Orleans, the pharmacist began to market a cure-all concoction for ailing patients that consisted of his namesake bitters mixed with, water, brandy and sugar. People were said to grow so fond of the combination that many started to come by Peychaud’s shop in perfect health in search of a taste.
Over the years, the drink transitioned to a rye whiskey base, first mentioned in print in William T. Boothby’s 1908 cocktail manual, The World’s Drinks and How to Mix Them. An absinthe “rinse” of the glass became the cocktail’s trademark, as the pastis enhances the natural anise spice that’s a signature flavor of Peychaud’s Bitters.
A bartender favorite the world over, the Louisiana state legislature voted in 2008 to make the Sazerac the official cocktail of New Orleans. They’re simple to make, perfectly balanced and guaranteed to delight. Here’s how to make one.
- ¼ ounce absinthe, or similar pastis like Ricard or Pernod
- 2 ounces rye whiskey (can substitute brandy)
- ¼ ounce simple syrup
- 4 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
- Lemon (for garnish)
Pour absinthe into chilled rocks glass. Swirl to coat interior, then discard excess liquor.
In mixing glass filled with ice, combine whiskey, simple syrup and bitters. Stir until well chilled, 30–40 seconds. Strain into absinthe-rinsed glass without ice. Garnish with lemon twist and serve neat.