Ah, the Sazerac, one of the oldest and most quintessential of the cocktails. Its ingredients are few, its preparation ritualistic and its taste unforgettable.
I first stumbled upon this Louisiana legend at the uber-cool BarChef in Toronto. Theirs was an apricot version, if my memory serves me right, I think it was an apricot brandy or rye they used. Since then I wanted to recreate it at home but was hard-pressed to source the necessary absinthe and Peychaud’s bitters.
However, this fall I was lucky enough to get my hands on a bottle of locally made absinthe from Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers in Beamsville, Ontario. Made with locally grown wormwood, botanicals and vapour distilled. It still retains the faint green hue often associated with the green fairy, but is light, and obviously natural. This spirit packs a punch at 67.5 per cent alcohol volume!
One item I still for the life of me could not source was Peychaud’s bitters. It's comparable to Angostura bitters but with a vibrant fuchsia hue and more floral aroma. In its stead, I used another Dillon’s creation, their DSB bitters, basically an all-purpose bitters with notes of vanilla and cherry.
Originally, the Sazerac included French cognac, absinthe, sugar and bitters, with a twist of lemon. In the 1870’s the primary spirit in the drink changed to rye whisky, due to the shortage of French cognac imports.
Although it sounds like an ‘in your face’ drink, the Sazerac is as much about aroma as it is about taste. The absinthe lined glass and lemon twist are herbaceous and fresh while the rye adds spiciness making it a level and highly enjoyable tipple.
The Sazerac itself is elegantly simple. It contains few, good quality ingredients and a ritual of preparation that borders on the reverent.
This New Years Eve, impress your friends with the finesse of this throwback cocktail.
Tools you will need:
2 rock glasses
Muddler or bar spoon
Makes 1 cocktail
2 ounces of 100 per cent rye whisky
¼ ounce absinthe (or absinthe substitute such as Herbsaint or Pernod
1 sugar cube
Splash of water
2 dashes of bitters (preferably Peychaud’s, but you can substitute any basic bitters
1 lemon twist
Fill the first rock glass full with ice and top with water
In the second rock glass place the sugar cube a few drops of water and the biters and muddle until the sugar is dissolved, add a few cubes of ice and the rye and stir well
Discard the ice and water from the first rock glass and swirl the absinthe along the inside to evenly coat, discard any excess absinthe
Using a strainer, pour the rye mixture into the absinthe coated glass
Take the lemon twist and curl it while passing it over the lip of the glass, to expel its essential oils on the rim of the glass, drop in the lemon peel