The original base spirit of the sazerac cocktail was sazerac de forge et fils brandy, and the source of its name. The Sazerac company claims Antoine Peychaud invented this, the world’s first cocktail with his bitters around 1838. This legend is at odds with the first documented use of the word cocktail. That occurred before 1800, but perhaps they mean this is the first cocktail worthy of the name.
If you recognize a theme here, it’s because there is one truism about whisky and cocktail lore. There are many stories of origin and the “truth” depends upon who is writing the story.
It is well documented that in 1850 Aaron Bird, owner of the Sazerac Coffee House in New Orleans used Sazerac brandy with peychaud’s bitters to popularize this cocktail.
That recipe remained the standard until 1870 when phylloxera wiped out French vineyards and their brandy production. Rye whisky became the base and a touch of absinthe was added. Things rocked along until 1912 when absinthe was banned in the U.S. over fears of wormwood. It’s rumored hallucinogenic effects created concern similar to “reefer madness” in the 1960’s. Herb Sainte, an anise flavored liqueur became the substitute for absinthe and remains the NOLA recipe in use today. To make it official, it was codified in 2008 by the Louisiana legislature.
Searching For The Real Sazerac Cocktail
I traveled directly to the source to research this investigative piece of journalism. Determined to find the best sazerac, I sampled everything in the French Quarter and beyond. Strangely each cocktail tasted better than the previous one and my favorite was the last.
Finally, I achieved singularity, the guiding force in choosing this recipe for the best sazerac there ever was and will be. You’re Welcome.
- 1 cube sugar -or- 1 tsp sugar
- 2–1/2 oz rye whisky
- 1/4 oz absinthe – for the rinse
- 3 dashes peychaud’s bitters
- Lemon peel – garnish
- Pack a single rocks glass with crushed ice to thoroughly chill
- Place the sugar cube and add the bitters to a mixing glass, then crush the sugar cube
- Add the whisky to the mixing glass and stir to dissolve the sugar
- Add cubed ice and stir to chill
- Empty the ice from the rocks glass, rinse with the absinthe and pour out any excess
- Pour and strain into the rocks glass and garnish with the lemon peel