Sazerac – David Embury

Fill small old-fashioned glasses with finely crushed ice and set aside to chill. Put into pre-chilled bar glass or pitcher for each drink:

1 teaspoon Sugar Syrup

3 dashes Peychaud Bitters

2 to 2 ½ ounces Whisky

Stir with large cubes of ice until thoroughly chilled. Empty the old-fashioned glasses. Put 1 dash absinthe in each glass and twirl glasses until inside is thoroughly rinsed with Absinthe, throwing out any excess liquid. Strain liquor into the chilled and rinsed glasses. Twist a strip of lemon peel over each drink and drop into glass for decoration. Serve with a glass of ice water on the side as a chaser.

Embury is less than complimentary, he ends his chapter on aromatic whisky cocktails with this one, and he has a bone to pick with it. ‘this is one of the numerous drinks whose precise formula is supposed to be a deep dark secret. Somehow the gullibility of human nature is such that the two things which that seem to afford the greatest advertising value to a drink are (1) a secret formula shrouded in mystery, and (2) the slogan ‘only two to a customer’. He goes on to call the drink a sharp pungent cocktail, states the combination of whisky and absinthe is not particularly pleasing, and points out that even amongst his various New Orleans friends ‘I have yet to find a Sazerac addict’.

David, I’m a Sazerac addict.

And this drink is New Orleans cocktail royalty, which I thought appropriate for today, it being Mardi Gras and all.

Stanley Clisby Arthur wrote ‘the’ book on drinks from the south ‘Famous New Orleans Drinks and how to mix ‘em’. It brings the city to life, with recipes sunken within stories from a time long past (which affords him a little distance from hard facts now and then). He starts his Sazerac tale with ‘Old timers will tell you the three outstanding drinks of New Orleans in the memory of living men were the dripped absinthe frappe of the old absinthe house, the Ramos gin fizz, and the Sazerac cocktail’ and ‘there are cocktails and cocktails, but the best known of all New Orleans cocktails is unquestionably the Sazerac’. it would be apparent that Embury has not read this book, Stanley adds angostura into the mix, and warns against committing ‘the sacrilege of dropping the peel into the drink’.

The name comes from a type of brandy, named Sazerac, that was distributed for a while by the owner of the ‘Sazerac House’ in New Orleans (1859), which became famous for brandy cocktails, using this brand. War hit the states, devastating the land, and by the end people had better things to spend money on, ‘red likker’ replaced French brandy in the wink of an eye.

The first time I tried this I loved the way that the absinthe lightens up the drink, using just a drop or two at the end it removes any lingering sweetness, and almost adds a fresh minty-ness to the drink. When we opened Goat in 2013 one of the first drinks on the list was a ‘Jackson’, a marriage between an old fashioned and a Sazerac with a dash of cherry bitters for good measure. Trying this also made me realise the versatility of absinthe in drinks, and if you use just a drop or two, like you would angostura bitters it really brings drinks to life.

This is a drink I’ve been looking forward to for a while, and I had Jordi, one of our newer recruits, make this one for me, I like it in a cocktail glass instead of an old fashioned glass, it gives it elegance. He did however commit the same sacrilege that Embury allowed, I guess he’s in good company, and it certainly didn’t spoil my drink.