This recipe and text is taken from New Olreans DRINKS and how to mix 'em by Stanley Clisby Arthur. HARMANSON, Publisher, 333 rue Royale Nouvelle Orleans ; 1937

The Sazerac Cocktail

Oldtimers will tell you the three outstanding drinks of New Orleans in the memory of the living men were the dripped absinthe frappé of the Old Absinthe House, the Ramos gin fizz, and the Sazerac cocktail.

As previously related,  the American cocktail was not only born in New Orleans but was given its curious name in the city's famous Vieux Carré. There are cocktails and cocktails, but the best known of all New Orleans cocktails is unquestionably the Sazerac. The fact that it originated in New Orleans gave rise to the legend that it was first concocted by and named for an old Louisiana family, legend without fact since no such Louisiana family ever existed.

A barbershop now holds forth in a building on the right hand side of the first block in Royal street going down from Canal, and before its doors still remains lettered in the sidewalk the word "SAZERAC." This denotive indicated the entranceway to a once well patronized bar on Exchange Alley side of the building. it was here that the drink famed far and wide as a Sazerac cocktail was mixed and dispensed. It was here that it was christened with the name it now bears.

For years one of the favorite brands of cognac imported into New Orleans was a brand manufactured by the firm of Sazerac-de-Froge et fils, of Limoges, France. the local agent for this firm was John B. Schiller. In 1859 Schiller opened a liquid dispensary at 13 Exchange Alley, naming it "Sazerac Coffee-house" after the brand of cognac served exclusively at his bar.

Schiller's brandy cocktails became the drink of the day, and his business flourished, surviving even the War Between the States. In 1870 Thomas H. Handy, his bookkeeper, succeeded as proprietor and changed the name to "Sazerac House." An alteration in the mixture also took place. Peychaud's bitters was still used to add the right fillip, but American rye whiskey was substituted for the cognac to please the tastes of Americans who preferred the "red likker" to any pale faced brandy.

Thus brandy vanished from the Sazerac cocktail to be replaced by whiskey (Handy always used Maryland Club rye, if you are interested in brand names.), and the dash of absinthe was added. Precisely when whiskey replaced brandy and the dash of absinthe was added are moot questions. The absinthe innovation has been credited to Leon Lamothe who in 1858 was a bartender for Emile Seignouret, Charles Cavoroc & Co., a wine importing firm located in the old Seignouret mansion still standing at 520 Royal street. More likely it was about 1870, when Lamonthe was employed at Pina's restaurant in Burgundy street that he experimented with absinthe and made the Sazerac what it is today.

But this history is dry stuff, so let's sample a genuine Sazerac. We will ask Leon Dupont, now vice-president of the St. Regis Restaurant but for years one of the expert cocktail mixers behind Tom Handy's original Sazerac bar, to make one for us.

Here's how --- and how!

  • 1 lump sugar

  • 3 drops Peychaud's bitters

  • 1 dash Angostura bitters

  • 1 jigger rye whiskey

  • 1 dash absinthe substitute (Herbsaint)

  • 1 slice lemon peel

To mix a Sazerac requires two heavy-bottomed, 3 1/2-ounce bar glasses. One is filled with cracked ice and allowed to chill. In the other a lump of sugar is placed with just enough water to moisten it. The saturated loaf of sugar is then crushed with a barspoon. Add a few drops of Peychaud's bitters, a dash of Angostura, a jigger of rye whiskey, for while bourbon may do for a julep it just won't do for a real Sazerac. To the glass containing sugar, bitters, and rye add several lumps of ice and stir. Never use a shaker! Empty the first glass of its ice, dash in several drops of absinthe, twirl the glass and shake out the absinthe ... enough will cling to the glass to give the needed flavor. Strain into this glass the whiskey mixture, twist a piece of lemon peel over it for the needed zest of that small drop of oil thus extracted from the peel, but do not commit the sacrilege of of dropping the peel into the drink. Some bartenders put a cherry into the Sazerac; very pretty but not necessary.

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