A Sazerac cocktail is an alcoholic beverage made with Peychaud’s bitters, American rye whiskey and Herbsaint, with a twist of lemon.
Some modern variations use bourbon instead.
Purists insist that the lemon twist should be on the side of the glass and that the twist should never ever actually touch the drink directly. Before starting to drink the cocktail, the twist should be squeezed to express one or 2 zephyrs of lemon essence.
Several dashes of Herbsaint
- 1 lump of Sugar
- 1 tablespoon of water
- 3 drops of Peychaud’s Bitters
- 1 jigger of American Rye Whisky
- 1 slice of lemon peel
Have a chilled Old Fashioned glass. Put several dashes of Herbsaint in it, swirl it around, then drain off and discard the excess.
In a separate glass or mixing jug, place the sugar cube, water and bitters. Muddle until the sugar is dissolved as best as you can. Add the rye whiskey, a good amount of cracked ice, stir and strain into the Old-Fashioned Glass.
Simplified Way to Make a Sazerac
This is a more straightforward but sacrilegious version, because it does away with the muddling of the lump of sugar, and swaps in just sugar syrup instead. Truly lazy people, though, might well ponder whether any work is saved because you have to make the sugar syrup in advance of all this. The sugar syrup does have the advantage, though, of dissolving into the drink completely.
Have a chilled Old Fashioned glass. Put a teaspoon of Herbsaint in it, swirl it around, then drain off and discard the excess.
In a separate glass or mixing jug, 2/3 full of cracked ice, mix:
- 1 teaspoon of simple syrup
- 3 to 4 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
- 2 to 2 1/2 oz (60 to 75 ml) rye whiskey
Strain this mixture into the Old Fashioned glass, and garnish with a twist of lemon peel.
Originally, the recipe used brandy (or marc  or cognac), absinthe, sugar and Peychaud’s bitters.
Sazeracs started to become popular at the start of the 1850s in bars in New Orleans. New Orleans bars went by the more genteel term of “coffee houses.” One coffee house, the Sazerac Coffee House on Exchange Alley in New Orleans, was owned by a man named Sewell Taylor. He started serving the cocktail in 1853. His establishment became the best known place for the cocktail. For the base, he used a cognac (or brandy — no one’s sure which) that he imported and sold under his own brand name of “Sazerac de Forge et Fils.”
In the 1870s, a man named Thomas H. Handy purchased both the Sazerac Coffee House and the rights to Peychaud’s Bitters. He changed the bar’s name to “Sazerac House.” By this time, though, the establishment had replaced the brandy with American rye whiskey.
In the 1890s, Handy decided to make the Sazerac cocktail available to more people by bottling it and selling it.
When genuine absinthe was banned, Herbsaint was swapped in.
Sazerac House has moved a few times over the course of its history; today (2006) it is in the Fairmont Hotel.
 marc: the French term for grappa.
Literature & Lore
“The Sazerac is one of the drinks that comes closest to the original definition of a cocktail, which is, simply, alcohol, sugar, bitters.” — Daniel Baernreuther. Manager, American Bar, Savoy Hotel. Quoted in: Jarvis, Alice-Azania. Absinthe minded: The ruin of bohemians is back in all the best bars. London: The Independent. 31 March 2011.