I’ve been holding off on this recipe for awhile since it’s a little complicated and such an infamous drink that I wouldn’t want to spread any misinformation about the proper preparation. However, recently the Sazerac has become my cocktail of choice. In the world I currently inhabit, one of pre-fabricated neo-speakeasies, Lower East Side tiki bars and copious Milk and Honey knock-offs - every cocktail I encounter tends to cost at least upwards of $12. This fact is ridiculous, yet I must accept it as a truth of fine drinking in New York City. Thus, I like a little more “bang for my buck,” drinks that require actual effort to mix and don’t just taste like a $15 Cosmopolitan alternative. The Sazerac provides exactly that. The drink is exotic, comes with a ritual and rich historical narrative as well as incredible potency. Without further adeiu, this is what you’ll need:
1 1/2 oz Rye Whiskey
1/4 oz Absinthe (St. George or Lucid will do) OR Herbsaint
3 dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters
1 lemon peel
1 sugar cube
Now for the preparation. Take one heavy, crystal old-fashioned glass and fill it with cracked ice. In a second glass, muddle the sugar cube with the bitters. Allow to sit for a moment before pouring the Rye into the sugar/bitters mixture. Now, empty the first glass of ice and quickly pour the absinthe in, swirling it around vigorously to coat the sides of the glass with the liquor and then discard the remaining absinthe. This is called an absinthe (or Herbsaint, if you’ve decided to go the less dangerous route) “wash” or “rinse” and will give the glass a distinct taste and smell of the notorious green fairy without overpowering the cocktail. Now, pour the rye into the glass, run the twist of lemon along its rim and then drop into the cocktail, served up (the drink will be cold due to the ice that has previously chilled the glass).
Substitutions for this cocktail, which has often been debated as the world’s first, include the obvious use of Herbsaint (an Anis-flavored liquer) if absinthe isn’t available and the use of Cognac if Rye doesn’t sit well with you. No matter how you do it, as long as you use quality ingredients and keep the proportions correct, this drink is incredibly complex, rich and delicious - a true cocktail.
Enjoy, and imbibe responsibly.