Many of us share recipes with friends and family while celebrating the holiday season. One quintessential cocktail recipe that I feel must be shared is the Sazerac Cocktail. It’s a stiff drink with a slight nose aroma of anise. Being originally from New Orleans, I may be a little partial, but I do enjoy the cocktail often and I personally like it best made with Remy Martin 1738 1738 Cognac, Swiss made Kubler Absinthe and Peychaud Bitters.
The Sazerac is a local favorite historic cocktail that originated around the mid 1800s in New Orleans. Around 1850, Sewell T. Taylor sold his New Orleans bar, The Merchants Exchange Coffee House, to become an importer of spirits, and he began to import a brand of Cognac named Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils. Meanwhile, Aaron Bird assumed proprietorship of the Merchants Exchange and changed its name to Sazerac Coffee House. Legend has it that Bird began serving the “Sazerac Cocktail”, made with Sazerac Cognac imported by Taylor, and allegedly with bitters being made by the local apothecary, Antoine Amedie Peychaud. The Sazerac Coffee House subsequently changed hands several times, when around 1870, Thomas Handy became its proprietor. It is around this time that the primary ingredient changed from Cognac to rye whiskey, due to the phylloxera epidemic in Europe that devastated the vineyards of France. At some point before his death in 1889, Handy recorded the recipe for the cocktail, which made its first printed appearance in William T. “Cocktail Bill” Boothby’s The World’s Drinks and How to Mix Them (1908), although his recipe calls for Selner Bitters, not Peychaud’s. After absinthe was banned in the US in 1912, it was replaced by various anise-flavored liqueurs, most notably the locally produced Herbsaint, which first appeared in 1934. Some also suggest that with prohibition in the USA and the rareity of imported liquors may have contributed to Rye replacing the cognac. Rum could have also been substituted since so much flowed through the port of New Orleans during prohibition which gave birth to another New Orleans original, the “Hurricane Cocktail” But, that’s another story.
The Sazerac Bar in New Orleans serves the cocktail made with American Rye whiskey. However, the drink is most traditionally made with a combination of Cognac, absinthe, Peychaud’s Bitters and sugar.
- 3 oz 1738 Remy Martin Cognac
- 1/4 oz simple syrup or agave syrup
- substituted bitters to taste
- Lemon twist for garnish
- Chill an old-fashioned glass by filling it with ice and letting it sit while preparing the rest of the drink.
- In a separate mixing glass, muddle the simple syrup and Peychaud bitters together.
- Add the cognac and ice to the bitters mixture and stir.
- Discard the ice in the chilled glass and rinse it with absinthe by pouring a small amount into the glass, swirling it around and discarding the liquid.
- Strain the cognac mixture from the mixing glass into the old fashioned glass.
- Garnish with a lemon twist. Traditionalists will say that the lemon twist should be squeezed over the drink to release its essences but that the twist should not be dropped into the glass itself.
- I would recommend going to the Sazerac Bar in New Orleans and let a pro show you the ropes.
Contributed by: Martin Allred