By , July 14, 2003

A Sazerac makes for a refreshing change of pace from the more common cocktails one may typically drink or order, and though it is a bit of process to craft one, it is certainly effort well spent.

The Sazerac is one of the oldest cocktails there is, some say the oldest, with original incarnations dating back to the 1830s. The version we know today can be traced back to the Sazerac Coffee House in New Orleans, where it was created by John Schiller. He refined earlier versions of the drink, originally built around cognac, into its present form.


Crafting a Sazerac is something of a process, which I’ll outline below in step-by-step fashion.


2 ounces Rye Whiskey
1 Sugar Cube
4 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
1 drop Angostura Bitters
1/4 ounce Absinthe
lemon peel

1. Fill an old-fashioned glass with ice and set it aside.
2. Place sugar cube in a second old-fashioned glass.
3. Add the Peychaud and Angostura bitters to the sugar cube
4. Muddle the sugar and bitters, adding a few drops of water if necessary, with a metal spoon, until it is nicely mashed.
5. Add the rye whiskey to the sugar/bitters mixture.
6. Add a few ice cubes to the drink, and stir. Set aside for a moment.
7. Empty ice from first glass, and add the absinthe.
8. Swirl the glass to coat the entire surface with absinthe, then empty out the remaining bit.
9. Strain the whiskey/sugar/bitters mixture into the chilled, absinthe-coated cup.
10. Twist lemon peel over the drink so that lemon oil cascades into the drink.
11. Rub lemon peel around the rim of the glass.
12. Discard peel.

There you have it, your very own 12-step program to personal happiness and fulfillment. Repeat as necessary!

A few important points to add:

The recipe calls for absinthe. I’ll devote a future blog to that spirit, but for the time being I’ll note a couple important points. First, you *can* legally obtain absinthe in the USA. You will have to order it from an overseas vendor, but it is not illegal to do so, nor is it illegal to possess it. However, it is quite expensive to do so. Not only is the absinthe itself pricey, but the shipping costs are exorbitant. You can end up spending $60 and up for a bottle. Fear not. The absinthe called for in a Sazerac is merely to add taste, and a level of complexity, to the drink, so one can substitute Herbsaint, available in American liquor stores at an affordable price, without compromising the integrity of the drink one iota.

If you don’t have a sugar cube, you can replace it with 1 teaspoon of simple syrup, which is easily made at home. Bring one cup of water to a boil, then add two cups of sugar. Once the sugar dissolves, turn the heat off and let the liquid cool. That’s all there is to it– you now have simple syrup.

Finally, some Sazerac aficionados forego the usage of the Angostura bitters, as it is not a part of the original recipe, but I find that a scant drop gives the drink a heightened complexity. Try it both ways and decide what you prefer. The only drawback is that you’ll have to drink two Sazeracs, not one, which really isn’t a drawback at all.


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