Wednesday, March 24, 2010


The Sazerac has been on the rise of late, along with the other pre-Prohibition era cocktails.  Thing is though, the Sazerac pre-dates many of its neighbors on the various menus in which is it listed.  In one write-up, the Sazerac is the first cocktail made in the US. 

Is the one we're making the same as the Sazerac's made pre-Civil War?  Definitely not.

According to most legends, the original Sazerac was so-named after a particular type of brandy of the same moniker.  Now, Sazerac's are made with rye whiskey, a far cry from brandy.

Also, at one time the drink featured absinthe, the liquor that purportedly caused hallucinations due to the wormwood used in the production of the alcohol.  Now, in absinthe's place is Pernod, a liquor with strong anise or licorice flavors. 

So what has remained from the original recipe?  Bitters.  That's it.

But one can even say that the bitters have changed, most significantly though, the bitters purpose has changed.  Bitters, and a lot of alcohol too, was consumed for its medicinal qualities, as opposed to being consumed for mere pleasure.  No one these days consumes bitters to settle a stomach (no one I know, that is).

I'm excited about making the Sazerac.  I like traditional cocktails, and I'm pretty certain I'm going to dig this drink.

Let's do this!

Here's what the finished product looks like:


American Bar, page 173

1 sugar cube
dashes Angostura bitters
1 1/2 oz rye whiskey
1/4 oz Pernod
water or soda

Place Angostura-saturated sugar cube into an old-fashioned glass, crush with a barspoon, add liquors, mix well, fill with water.

Some interesting parts to this recipe:

1.  No ice.  On balance, I think I can say that I prefer a cooler than room temperature drink.  I like my scotch to mellow with one small ice cube before sipping.  No ice here though.

2.  No water or soda.  As you may recall from the Old Fashioned recipe, sometimes additional water or soda dilutes what is otherwise a perfectly good drink.  Based on that experience, I can tell you in advance that I'm not filling this drink with water.  Well, not initially anyway.

3.  Pernod, as mentioned above, is an anise flavored liquor.  When you hear that something has an anise flavor profiled, just think of black licorice jelly beans.  Now, random fun fact - black jelly beans happen to be my favorite candy.  I know black licorice jelly beans are grotesque to 95% of people out there - but what can I say - I loved them growing up!  I could crush a bag of them in a sitting.  Love 'em!  Though I've never had Pernod, the smell from the bottle was enticing.  This is going to be a drink in my proverbial wheelhouse, I just know it!

This is a picture of the bitters mixing with the sugar:

I love this drink.  I love it.  This drink is definitely not for everyone.  In fact, just as most people hate black licorice jelly beans, they will likely also hate this drink for the same reasons.  The licorice flavor is strong, even with only a 1/4 oz of Pernod thrown in the mix.  Similar flavors can be found in the bitters too. 

I dig it though.  This is a robust cocktail, and not for the faint of heart.  If you like heavy-peat scotch, you might dig the sazerac.  But, if you dislike licorice , this may be one to avoid.  The rye plays second fiddle here, so don't be fooled into thinking you're going to taste some excellent whiskey notes.  I certainly didn't.

And I don't know why you'd add club soda or water.  Don't.  The flavors, while strong, are probably divisive, and by that I mean, you're either going to like the drink or not - water isn't going to help you like it. 

The Sazerac is dynamite, and arguably my favorite drink that I've made on here to date.  We have a serious winner on our hands, a serious winner.


Anonymous said...

I just came across this blog and was pretty interested with comparisons by different 'receipies' of drinks, a great idea. I immediately jumped to the Sazerac to see what you had to say. While I prefer Hebstaint (I suppose a personal preference), one of the ultimate 'sins' of a Sazerac was the use of Agnostra's bitters rather than Peychaud's that is an integral part of the Sazerac history and tradition. Glad I found the site, and that's what makes life great, we can agree to disagree. ;) Oh, and I'll definately be back!

Anonymous said...

The Sazerac is either made with cognac or cognac & rye or rye.
A Sazerac tastes amazing with Hennessy XO Cognac.
A Sazerac also tastes amazing with Sazerac Rye OR Old Potrero rye.
Absinthe is widely available and should be used, however, some say a Sazerac tastes better with Pernod as opposed to Absinthe.
A Sazerac has Peychaud bitters NOT Angostura.
It does indeed include 1oz of still water.
A lemon twist is either squeezed over the top of the drink and placed inside, or discarded, personal preference.

The Amateur Mixologist on July 14, 2010 at 10:53 AM said...

I imagine a lot of cocktails taste amazing when using $100+ bottle of alcohol. :)

I get it, I get it - Peychaud bitters!! Duly noted.

We'll no doubt revisit the Sazerac, as I do love the drink.

Appreciate the comments!

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