Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Second Greatest Cocktail of All Time -- The Sazerac

The title is, of course, a matter of personal taste. There are, however, many cocktailians and mixologists who agree that the Sazerac is far too often neglected, and must be revived so that we might show others that their drinks need not be laden with Red Bull or sour mix.

The Sazerac is a superb drink, which comes to us from New Orleans. In fact, we can thank one man in particular, a Haitian pharmacist of sorts from the early 1800's named Antoine Amédée Peychaud. Along with the Old-Fashioned (which I personally consider to be the only cocktail superior to the Sazerac) is part of a very small group of the very first cocktails to ever exist (to our knowledge). It is a sad thought that we teeter on the edge of forgetting this wonderful concoction along with the others.

While the Sazerac most likely has taken its name (indirectly) from a particular brand of cognac, the original predominant spirit, it is now made with rye whiskey. In a pinch, another whiskey can be used. But this is not advised. The bitters, however, should not and cannot be substituted. Some have tried to use Angostura in the place of Peychaud's bitters, perhaps due to the difficulty of acquiring any bitters other than Angostura. However, this is no longer the case due to the internet and inexpensive nature of aromatic bitters. You no longer have an excuse. Pick up some Peychaud's wherever you can find it. See? No excuse. In fact, come to think of it, find yourself a nice bottle of rye soon thereafter. It's what the internet was built to do. Not to mention, a surprising amount of these once-hard-to-come-by ingredients are popping up at (gasp) grocery stores. Okay, enough ranting. Onto the recipe...


2 oz rye
1/2 simple syrup
1-2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
1/4 oz absinthe or absinthe substitute*

The serving glass (a rocks glass for the Sazerac) is prepared by first chilling, then coating the inside with absinthe. The chilling can be done with a simple ice bath. That is, while preparing the drink in a mixing glass, fill the serving glass with ice and water. The absinthe should be applied later, although I have seen reputable Sazeracs prepared by adding the absinthe to the ice bath. I personally don't think that this imparts enough of the flavor and aroma. To do an absinthe rinse, merely place a small quantity (roughly 1/4 oz or so) in the glass and swirl it around so that it coats the entirety of the inside of the glass. Those inclined to aspects of flair bartending opt to accomplish this by turning the glass sideways and throwing it up into the air, spinning it vigorously. I'll leave this decision to you and your glassware budget. Robert Hess has an excellent idea which I have not yet tried, but sounds quite nice. Instead of a traditional absinthe rinse, he uses an atomizer to apply a few quick sprays of absinthe mist in order to coat the walls of the glass. Finally, a use for those "vermouth spritzers" which give the dry martini a bad name.

During the ice bath and before the absinthe rinse, one should prepare the bulk of the cocktail in a mixing glass. Combine the rye, simple syrup, and Peychaud's bitters with ice and stir vigorously for several seconds. Quickly, but effectively, apply the absinthe. Then strain the cocktail into the prepared rocks glass. Squeeze a piece of lemon peel over the top of the drink, but (if you're a purist) do not place the peel in the glass. If you do desire the lemon peel to rest in your drink, be certain not to include any of the bitter white pith. You'll notice that this drink, despite being served in a rocks glass, has no ice in the finished product. This will cause the glass to be far from full. Resist the urge to add ice or anything else to your Sazerac. Simply sit back, relax, and enjoy the second greatest cocktail of all time.

*Absinthe was at one point difficult to acquire within the United States (and many other countries). This is slowly changing as more and more countries are realizing that the rumors of absinthe's hallucinatory and highly toxic nature were far from true. If you do happen to have an absinthe substitute like Herbsaint, Pernod, etc. feel free to use it. It will still produce a highly tasty drink. However, as always, there is no complete substitute for the real thing. Perhaps, a Sazerac revival and an absinthe revival could lead each other back to our shelves. Here's hoping.


Chris said...

That, sir, is a very familiar-looking rye bottle. :)

Glad to have contributed to this blog post, in however a small way. ;)

mattatouille said...

hi, found your blog through FoodGPS, where you'll be competing in the Rosangel competition. So if the Sazerac is #2, then what's #1? Martini?