COCKTAILS | Versatile and classic, the Sazerac is a new favorite

Your writer consumed this Sazerac upon his arrival in the Grand Canyon State on Wednesday evening.

When my flight touched down in Tucson at 11:30 local time (2:30 Eastern) last Wednesday, I was ready for a drink. Meeting me at the airport were two of my favorite fellow cocktail aficionados: Mrs. F. and contributing writer Maxwell Eaton III. Max sensed my thirst and had a solution: the Sazerac.

Full disclosure: It is shameful, frankly, that I haven’t written about this drink before. Last weekend, it turned out, was the weekend of the Sazerac. I had at least five of them over the course of the four days we spent in the far southwest for the wedding of Max and his delightful bride, Kristin. Classmates of Mrs. F. (St. Lawrence ‘04), they threw one hell of a party.

Believed by many to be the oldest and first American cocktail — it traces its roots to New Orleans in the 1830s where it was allegedly conceived by Antoine Amédée Peychaud — the Sazerac is a fine drink. As welcome at cocktail hour as it is at last call, it’s one of the most genuinely versatile drinks I’ve written about to date. Refreshing at cocktail hour, the Sazerac is also a magnificent nightcap.

BarMax’s bar setup is quite complete.

Though the primary ingredient today is rye, the drink has, at one time or the other in its storied past, relied on cognac. Other key players are Peychaud’s bitters, simple syrup and Absinthe. The latter can easily be substituted with Herbsaint, Chartreuse or Pernod.

As luck would have it, Max had some absinthe on hand in his remarkably complete home bar. His treatment of our glasses was skilfull — the drink requires that the walls of an old-fashioned glass be lined with a thin blanket of absinthe — and his presentation was textbook (Though, given the late hour, we skipped the lemon-peel garnish).

Max and I agree that there is no such thing as too much Peychaud’s in the Sazerac. We had several rounds of Sazeracs over the course of the weekend at the Hotel Congress, including a rather poorly constructed drink just before he said “I do” to the lovely Kristin, and we kept asking the bartenders for extra bitters. So a bit of advice: be generous with your bitters.

One more idea: If you chose to garnish with a lemon peel, do what Keith, the genius bartender at the Congress does, which is to expose the outside of the lemon to a little flame before adding it to your drink.

• 1 1/2 ounces rye
• Dashes of Peychaud’s
• Sugar cube or 1 ounce of simple syrup
• 1/4 ounce absinthe
• Lemon peel

Line the walls of an old-fashioned glass with Absinthe, being sure to discard any extra liquid: you don’t need any puddling. Muddle the sugar cube and the bitters and add the rye. Put this mixture over ice and stir, serving neat in the old-fashioned glass. Add your lemon garnish and serve.


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  1. [...] and tried new tastes like the Ward 8. Tonight, I selected the Black Rose, a variant of both the Sazerac and the Jack Rose. Like the Sazerac, it calls for Peychaud’s. Like the Jack Rose, [...]

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