The Sazerac is a local New Orleans variation of a Cognac or whiskey cocktail, named for the Sazerac de Forge et Fils brand of Cognac brandy that served as its original main ingredient The drink is most traditionally a combination of cognac or rye, absinthe, Peychaud’s Bitters, and sugar, although bourbon whiskey and/or Herbsaint are sometimes substituted. Some claim it is the oldest known American cocktail, with origins in pre–Civil War New Orleans, although drink historian David Wondrich is among those who dispute this, and American instances of published usage of the word cocktail to describe a mixture of spirits, bitters, and sugar can be traced to the dawn of the 19th century.
- 1 sugar cube
- 2 1/2 ounces whiskey — rye whisky
- 2 dashes Bitters — Peychaud’s bitters
- 1 dash Bitters — Angostura bitters
- lemon peel
In an Old-Fashioned glass (not a mixing glass; it’s part of the ritual), muddle a sugar cube with a few drops of water. Add several small ice cubes and the rye whiskey,* the Peychaud’s bitters, and the Angostura bitters.**
Stir well and strain into a second, chilled, Old-Fashioned glass in which you have rolled around a few drops of absinthe (no substitute really works, but you can try either a mix of Pernod and green Chartreuse, or Absente) until its inside is thoroughly coated, pouring off the excess. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel (some insist that this be squeezed over the drink and discarded; Handy wasn’t so picky).
* Use the good stuff, if you can find it: Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye (13 years old), or Sazerac Rye (18 years old).
** Optional. It’s not in the original recipe, but it’s traditional nonetheless, and it’s not bad.