Sazerac: A Strong Seduction for the Palate W hen most people think of New Orleans, they think of the Big Easy as a place of debauchery, ...

Sazerac: A Strong Seduction for the Palate

When most people think of New Orleans, they think of the Big Easy as a place of debauchery, particularly during the annual Mardi Gras festivities. It’s a historic place brimming with seduction at every turn which is perhaps why the Sazerac is the official local drink.

Traditionally, it’s made from a combination of cognac or even rye whiskey with absinthe bitters, and sugar. Many even say this is the oldest American cocktail, dating back to pre-Civil War times, however just as many people counter this. There are some interesting tales, or shall we call them “cocktales” swirling about in regards to the Sazerac. One of them hails back to 1850 when a man named Sewell T. Taylor sold his bar to focus on importing spirits. One brand he imported was a cognac called Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils. A man named Aaron Bird took over the bar’s ownership, changing its name to Sazerac Coffee House.

And so the story goes that the new owner started serving a drink called the Sazerac Cocktail which was made from the cognac that the former owner imported. The bitters used in the drink were said to come from a local apothecary named Antoine Amedie Peychaud. The bar changed hands quite a few times over the years and once under the ownership of Thomas Handy in 1870, the main ingredient became rye whiskey instead of cognac. Handy was a rather handy fellow in that he recorded the recipe to the Sazerac, which was printed in the 1908 edition of The World's Drinks and How to Mix Them by William T. "Cocktail Bill" Boothby.

In 1912, absinthe was banned in the US and was replaced with different anise-flavored liqueurs. After time though, it faded into the background, almost forgotten. By the early 20th century though, as we all know too well, history repeats itself and the Sazerac drew curiosity that rekindled its popularity.

What makes a Sazerac a proper Sazerac is how it is prepared. You need two chilled old-fashioned glasses to get it right. You swirl the first glass with absinthe to add the distinctive flavor. In the second glass, you combine the rest of the ingredients and stir them with ice. Then you strain this mixture into your first glass. In the absence of absinthe, you can use Pernod or even Herbsaint instead. Herbsaint is what is most commonly used in New Orleans even to this day.

The Sazerac is an apt symbol of the city. Deep and dark with a classic charm, it’s definitely a drink to try out when you’re looking for something stronger to fuel your fire. If you’re not keen on making it at home, try ordering one on your next visit to your favorite neighborhood bar and impress your bartender.


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The Cocktails Portal: Sazerac
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