The Story Behind the Sazerac and How to Make One
New Orleans, Louisiana is a city of storied cocktails from the Gin Ramos Fizz and Brandy Milk Punch to the Vieux Carré and the Hurricane, made famous by Pat O'Brien's in the French Quarter. They may not have invented the daiquiri, but they revolutionized it. But one of the city's most popular cocktails is the Sazerac, a cherry-colored drink often served with a twist of lemon in a lowball, and like most beverages created in the Crescent City, the Sazerac has a colorful background story.
Pharmacist Antoine Amédée Peychaud, who was also the inventor of the ubiquitous Peychaud's Bitters, is said to have invited the sazerac at his pharmacy on Royal Street. Because he used a certain egg-shaped glass called a "coquetier" (pronounced "ko-k-tay") to measure the ingredients for his brandy toddies, legend has it that the Sazerac is the first branded cocktail, but Peychaud's descedent, cocktail researcher Phil Greene, may have debunked that myth. Regardless, Peychaud combined brandy, (his favorite being the namesak Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils cognac) bitters, sugar, and a dash of absinthe to create the prototype.
As ingredient availability and popular taste's changed, so did the Sazerac. In 1933 the Sazerac Company of New Orleans began bottling a Rye Whiskey which replaced the brandy in the recipe. Shortly after, Herbsaint, an absinthe substitute liquere, went on the market, and took the place of the dash of wormwood-fueled absinthe, which was banned in 1912.
While there are countless cocktail bars serving Sazeracs in New Orleans still today, the most famous is the eponymous Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel, where they have been serving them since it opened in 1938. Other bars worth drinking a sazerac at are: Bar Tonique, the Old Absinthe House, and The French 75 bar.
But if you're not visiting New Orleans any time soon, you can easily make one at home. Here's the official recipe.
1 cube sugar
1½ ounces (35ml) Sazerac Rye Whiskey or Buffalo Trace Bourbon
¼ ounce Herbsaint
3 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
Pack an Old-Fashioned glass with ice. In a second Old-Fashioned glass place the sugar cube and add the Peychaud's Bitters to it, then crush the sugar cube. Add the Sazerac Rye Whiskey or Buffalo Trace Bourbon to the second glass containing the Peychaud's Bitters and sugar. Empty the ice from the first glass and coat the glass with the Herbsaint, then discard the remaining Herbsaint. Empty the whiskey/bitters/sugar mixture from the second glass into the first glass and garnish with lemon peel.