The official drink of New Orleans, the Sazerac is a cocktail made for sipping on your French-style balcony while listening to the sounds of the city–probably jazz, definitely involving brass instruments. Not for the weak of heart, its a strong drink featuring Cognac and absinthe that is perfect for sipping as the late afternoon sun dips and the the night begins to tune up.
Sazerac was first a brand of Cognac, Sazerac du Forge et Fils, which was popular in New Orleans. This sparked a tavern to name itself Sazerac House in 1850 which served a cocktail consisting of Cognac, French absinthe, a touch of sugar, and bitters from a local apothecary, Antoine Peychaud. The drink switched from Cognac to rye whiskey because in the late 1800s, the supply of Cognac was drying up and whiskey soon took its place, cementing itself as the favorite spirit amongst Americans.
- 2 oz. rye whiskey
- 25 oz. Demerara syrup
- 4-6 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
- 1/8 oz (1 tsp.) absinthe
Take a rocks glass and either chill it in the freezer or with ice water. While it gets cold, in a separate mixing glass, combine liquid ingredients and stir for 10 seconds (if using very small ice) to 30 seconds (if using bigger cubes). Grab your now cold rocks glass, coat the inside with absinthe and empty the excess, then strain the cocktail into the absinthe-rinsed glass. Express a lemon peel over the top and then discard, serving the cocktail without garnish.
Do not skip on using two chilled rock glasses for preparation. That is part of the drink and flavor. Without this method, it would not be a true sazerac.
One variation is called the Zazarack which calls for non-rye bourbon. It is also possible to add a twist of flavor to the classic cocktail. A Bananarac contains rye whiskey and Armagnac, which is then built on with banana liqueur, demerara syrup, and aromatic bitters. For the fall season, try a Pumpkin Sazerac that incorporates spiced pumpkin syrup into the Sazerac.
In 1973’s Live And Let DIe, Bond (Roger Moore) momentarily forgets the tradition of drinking “locally,” and CIA agent Felix Leiter tells him to enjoy the official drink of The Big Easy: “Where’s your sense of adventure? This is New Orleans. Relax!”