May 27, 2010 (Day 117) — Sazerac

Considered America’s oldest cocktail, it is thought to be the first cocktail every invented. Antoine Amadie Peychaud, a Creole apothecary, is given the credit for first inventing the Sazerac cocktail in the 1830s.

According to the Web site “What’s Cooking America”:

The popularity of the Sazerac cocktail led to the opening of a large bar in 1852 called the Sazerac Coffee House (coffee house was the term used for drinking establishment in the mid-1800s). The bar had a 125-foot-long bar manned by a dozen bartenders all mixing Sazerac cocktails for patrons. In 1870, Thomas H. Handy purchased the Sazerac Coffee House and also bought out the rights to Peychaud’s Bitters. In the early days, the Sazerac cocktail was made with cognac or brandy, but as American tastes changed, rye whiskey was substituted. This unique cocktail derived it anise scent from absinthe. Beginning in 1912, absinthe was banned in the United States because of its habit-forming quality. Pernod, Herbsaint, or Ricard was substituted in place of absinthe.

I’m eager to try something with so much history! Plus, anything with whiskey — any kind truth be told — I’m going to be a sucker for. And NOLA! I’m eagerly looking forward to my first trip there. My grandmother, who lived there with my grandfather for several years, once told me “New Orleans is your kind of town, Mark.” So, there’s all sorts of excitement mixed in!

BEFORE YOU GET STARTED: Chill a rocks glass in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

The Sazerac:

.5 oz absinthe

.5 oz simple syrup

2.5 oz rye whiskey (Sazerac)

3 dashes bitters

1 lemon peel

In a separate rocks glass, combine your simple syrup, rye and bitters with three or four ice cubes. Stir thoroughly until the drink is chilled completely through.

Meanwhile, add the absinthe to the chilled glass; swirl it around to coat the entire sides and bottom of the glass. Discard the excess.

Strain your rye mixture into the prepared old-fashioned glass. Twist lemon peel over the drink and then place in the drink.

This is very good. The peppery flavor of the rye is the first taste you get, followed by the anise flavor of the absinthe. It actually surprised me, how prominent that flavor was considering you simply rinse the rocks glass with it. But it’s there, lurking in the aftermath. I’m thankful for the sugar, as I think these two very powerful liquors together would be almost overpoweringly strong.

Don’t serve this on the rocks, unless you want to look like a tourist. You want this baby to be served neat.

Delicious, smooth, and yet fiery. If I happen to have all these ingredients on hand in the future — this is actually the first time I’ve ever purchased rye — I will definitely be making this.

However, because this is served neat, there’s no water to dilute this drink. This means that while it may look like an easy drink to take down, it will sneak up on you. There is a very distinct burn that you get from the (almost) straight alcohol. But damn is that a good burn.


— Mark


  1. Good choice there, I do love a Sazerac!


  1. […] By law in the United States, rye whiskey is made from a mash of at least 51 percent rye. It is distilled to no more than 160 proof (80% alcohol), and aged in charred, new oak barrels. Rye whiskey that has been so aged for at least 2 years may be further designated as “straight”, as in “straight rye whiskey”. While produced similar to bourbon, it does have a stronger kick and is used in such classic cocktails as the Sazerac. […]

  2. […] (as one would imagine from looking at the ingredients), inspired by the New Orleans classic, the Sazerac. This isn’t for the uninitiated drinker. Let’s get that out of the way right now. […]

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