I must confess I was a late convert to the Sazerac. Another cocktail that has claims to being the oldest recorded, its delightful combination of whiskey and anise is rapidly becoming my new favourite cocktail (although claiming to have a favourite cocktail is a lot like claiming to have one favourite song – no drink will work for you all the time).
The Sazerac was the original New Orleans variation of the bittered sling. Down in the Deep South, just whiskey, bitters, sugar and water was not enough; the drinks required the added frisson of a touch of la fée verte. Born in the Sazerac Coffee House, New Orleans some time in 1850, the Sazerac was named for the imported Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils cognac which was originally its main ingredient. Some time between 1875 and 1879 while the great French vineyards were being decimated by cheeky wee aphids, causing production of cognac to fall by two-thirds, the cognac was replaced (out of necessity) with whiskey. The fine clientele of the Sazerac Coffee House never looked back.
The essence of the Sazerac depends on the inclusion of Peychaud’s bitters, and some records would have you believe that Mr Antoine Amadie Peychaud created the Sazerac to show off his family’s old aromatic bitters. Legend has it that Mr Peychaud used to serve his Sazeracs in a large egg cup. We prefer ours in a chilled metal goblet (or a rocks glass will do):
- Add a teaspoon of absinthe to a rocks glass and spin the glass until it is coated with the absinthe.
- Add 1/2 a lump of sugar, five dashes of Peychaud’s and water to cover.
- Muddle well.
- Add a large measure of rye whiskey and some ice.
- Stir well and garnish with a twist of lemon peel (purists say this should be squeezed over the glass and discarded, mine fell off the rim just as I took the shot, so I decided to leave it in).
Of course if you want to add a touch of flair to your Sazerac making sessions, follow the two-glass method:
- Fill a rocks glass with ice and set aside.
- Take a second rocks glass and muddle the sugar and water.
- Add ice, rye whiskey and Peychaud’s to the sugar solution.
- Empty the iced glass and roll a wee sploosh of absinthe inside until coated.
- Strain the drink from the second glass into the first.
- Finish with a twist of lemon peel (discarded).
Good luck managing step five without pouring most of the drink over the nearest flat surface – it takes a little practice!