The Classic Sazerac Cocktail

November 3, 2021

The Sazerac is a timeless cocktail from New Orleans that was created in the 1800s. It is a simple recipe and a nice way to doctor up whiskey. The recipe requires just four ingredients: whiskey, a sugar cube, Peychaud’s Bitters, and anise liqueur. It is one of the best examples of a well-balanced cocktail that you will encounter, with the anise, bitters, and sugar perfectly accenting a spicy rye. As is the case with many popular drinks, there are varying opinions regarding how to make it. Some drinkers prefer to use their favorite bitters, some a specific rye, and many have a preference for the anise liqueur. Often, the glass is rinsed with absinthe, and that’s what is used here. But even the technique is disputed, though every element is a matter of personal preference. Despite all the variations, many bartenders will tell you that there are a few things to avoid when making a Sazerac. To prevent a Sazerac faux pas, never shake it. Don’t serve it on the rocks or in a cocktail glass, but instead, serve it in an oversize old-fashioned glass. And don’t let the lemon peel touch the drink. Express the oils over the glass, and hang the peel on the rim if you like, or discard. 

Here is what you’ll need to make it:

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
  • 2 ounces Filmoore Rides Whiskey, to taste
  • 1/4 ounce absinthe, or anise liqueur
  • Lemon twist, for garnish

Start by chilling an old fashioned glass by filling it with ice. Let it sit while you prepare the rest of the drink.

Next, in a mixing glass, soak the sugar cube with the bitters and muddle to crush the cube.

After that, add the whiskey and stir.

Discard the ice in the chilled glass. Rinse it with absinthe: Pour a small amount into the glass, swirl it around, then discard the liquid.

Pour the whiskey mixture into the absinthe-rinsed glass.

Lastly, gently squeeze the lemon twist over the drink to release its essence. Traditionalists typically discard it and rarely drop it into the glass; lay it on the rim as a garnish if you like. Serve and enjoy.

The story of the Sazerac cocktail began in 1838 when Antoine Amedie Peychaud, a New Orleans apothecary, mixed cognac with his proprietary Peychaud’s Bitters. In the 1850s, this “toddy” (not a hot toddy, but an early name for a cocktail) was the signature drink of the Sazerac Coffee House in New Orleans. That’s where it received its name and became the first “branded” cocktail. In 1869, bartender Thomas H. Handy purchased the bar from Sewell Taylor. A few years later, he added Peychaud’s Bitters to the portfolio of his growing liquor business, which would become the Sazerac Company. By the 1890s, rye whiskey took over for the brandy, and Handy was selling bottled Sazeracs. In the 1940s, Herbsaint became the anise liqueur of choice, primarily due to the longtime ban of absinthe in the U.S. (it was lifted in 2007).

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