This Friday, try the official cocktail of New Orleans, the Sazerac.
Well, it’s only been official since 2008, but this variation of the Old-Fashioned dates back to the mid-1800s and is steeped in N’Orleans history. Antoine Amadie Peychaud is credited with creating this drink, though it’s likely his contribution is limited to the bitters named after him. The drink was first served at the Merchants Exchange in New Orleans and made use of an imported cognac, Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils.
The original recipe called for Cognac mixed with Peychaud bitters. When absinthe wasn’t readily available in the United States, after being banned in 1912, anisette-flavored liqueurs like Pernod and Herbsaint were used with the later being the preferred choice. Read more about the cocktail here.
Today, rye whiskey is the more commonly used base, and absinthe is once again available in the States. Some even forego the old fashioned glass for the sleak look of a martini glass as is the case at McCormick & Schmick’s (at least the one in Chicago) which is where I first tried this classic cocktail.
What you’ll need: Rye Whiskey, Bitters, Simple Syrup, and Absinthe.
Chill an old-fashioned glass (either in the fridge or with ice). In another glass (or a shaker), muddle 1/2 ounce of simple syrup with three dashes of bitters. Alternatively, you can use one or two cubes of sugar and add enough water with the bitters to cover them. Next, stir in 3 ounces of rye whiskey; use your favorite brand. Remove ice from the old-fashioned glass and coat the inside with absinthe discarding any excess. The trick is to coat the bottom of the glass with a thin even layer of absinthe. Pour the whiskey mixture into absinthe-coated glass and serve up with a lemon peel garnish. Be sure to give the peel a good twist to release more flavor.
How I like it: Some recipes, as in the Old Mr. Boston Bartender’s Guide, suggest the drink may be served over cubed ice, but it’s better neat. And I, for one, don’t discard the excess absinthe. Why waste it? Although those who tend not to like anisette-flavored liqueur are better off discarding. Also, Angostura bitters may be used as a substitute for the Peychaud’s. Another possibility is of course switching back to the original use of cognac, which would distinguish it more from a traditional old-fashioned cocktail. And I have to say I think I prefer it served in a martini glass. Either way, it’s a unique flavorful drink with hints of citrus and anise. A great choice for a lazy summer evening.
Enjoy this taste of New Orleans, mes amis, but drink responsibly!