The Sazerac is one of the world’s oldest recorded cocktails, there are many stories about its origin, but the modern version we drink today must be made with Peychaud’s Bitters. These Bitters were made by a Creole gentleman who arrived in the late 1700’s to New Orleans, and was commercially producing them in 1830. Bitters produced around this period were considered tonics for health and vitality, and traveling apocatheray and snake oil salesmen. They were sold mixed with cognacs, brandies and whiskeys as an ‘enlivening tonic’
The strict Sazerac is made by icing and washing a rocks glass with absinthe. Another rocks glass, or boston is used to contain a Peychaud’s Bitters soaked sugar cube, a generous measure of Rye Whiskey, Buffalo Trace, who manufacture Peychaud’s, offer Sazerac Rye as an original approximation, but the aforementioned Rittenhouse Rye would do just as well. The recipe does not stipulate the addition of ice to the mixture, but it undoubtedly makes for a smoother, more pleasurable experience. The absinthe soaked ice is discarded and the drink is served straight up, with a twist for a garnish.
The best example of this drink I have ever come across was at Tara57 Cocktail Lounge in Shanghai, mixed by Lee Linford. It contained half a measure each of Woodford Reserve Bourbon and Martel XO cognac. The glass was washed with real czech absinthe and was made as a gift for my donation of my bottle of Peychaud’s Bitters before leaving Shanghai to move to Australia.
They say free drinks always taste sweeter, but this was magnificent.
The Sazerac is a wondefully complex and strong experience, when made well it is also supremely balanced and a true classic.