The Sazerac

The right stuff

The Sazerac

Apologies for the lack of posts in the last couple of weeks. I was hard at work on my cocktail fact finding mission to the Caribbean and Florida (henceforth: CFFM2CF) to ascertain the state of the tropical cocktail in the 21st century. Unfortunately the rest of my family seemed to treat it like some kind of vacation. Despite this useful insights were gained and will likely colour my upcoming articles. But first, and only tangentially related, I must build on our previous article on The Old Fashioned with a discussion on The Sazerac. No, not the sand monster in Return of the Jedi, the classic – and now official – cocktail of New Orleans. The history of The Sazerac is fairly well established and this time around I’ll sub-contract that to Wikipedia. Speaking of which, I should warn you against using the otherwise wonderful Wiki as a recipe source as the quantities and ratios used there are, in my opinion, not always the best. There go my chances of ever becoming a member of the IBA.

Anyway. The Sazerac is a very old cocktail which has certainly had its share of difficulties along the way. First the scarcity of its base ingredient (Cognac) and later the banishment of another key ingredient (absinthe) for the best part of a century. This caused some necessary replacements that we can now choose to undo. Or not. Thankfully the other key ingredient – Peychaud’s Bitters – is one of only a very few bitters to survive prohibition otherwise the Sazerac would surely be extinct. Which would have been quite a disaster, as the inexplicably delicious Sazerac is a superb drink that is so much more than a sum of its parts. Whilst unashamedly Southern and undeniably conservative the Sazerac is no pickup-driving Trump voter, it is the dignified Southern gentleman of the cocktail world. The pink hue that the bitters impart might cause the casual observer to question Sazerac’s masculinity. They would be quite wrong. Our main question when preparing a Saz is whether to use Cognac or its proper replacement, rye whiskey. Both are equally valid and equally satisfying. However, I’m afraid I’m going to have to shoot down another popular replacement; there’s simply no need to use Bourbon wherever Cognac or rye are available. As for the other replacement – Herbsaint for absinthe – that’s a no-brainer. Let’s put the absinthe back where it belongs – in a Sazerac. Our only other ingredient is a spoonful of sugar, or sugar syrup. Yes, well spotted, the Sazerac is, like it or not, simply an Old Fashioned with a twist. The twist being an absinthe rinse.

Before we get to the recipe, a word on glassware. The Sazerac demands a well chilled glass coated with absinthe. I’ve seen it served in a stem glass but I think it suits an Old Fashioned glass better. The traditional method is to swirl ice and absinthe in the glass then toss out the ice but you can also chill the glass in the fridge and then spray the inside of the glass with absinthe. The Sazerac is normally served without ice but I don’t see a problem in adding a nice big chunk of clear ice, just be aware that smaller cubes will cause unwanted dilution.


The Sazerac

2oz Cognac (VS or VSOP) or rye whiskey*

1 teaspoon simple syrup (1:1)

2 or 3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

Stir with ice

Strain into chilled glass rinsed with absinthe (see above)

Garnish with a twist of lemon peel (optional)

Toast Antoine Peychaud who may have created the Sazerac and certainly created the bitters that bear his name and are so essential to this drink.


*Rye whiskey can be expensive and difficult to find outside the USA. Make sure you, or those you know, don’t return from there rye-less. My personal rye of choice in a Sazerac is George Dickel.

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