The Tale of the Sazerac

While the exact history of the Sazerac is somewhat shrouded in mystery, it is a very interesting tale. What’s important here is, like many other of the world’s great inventions, the first cocktail was born here right in America. A product of the American dream, entrepreneurship, and the search for greatness, the Sazerac is a shining example of the essence of the American spirit: only settling for the best (and the tastiest)! 

The original Sazerac was made with a cognac imported from France that gave it its name: Sazerac de Forge et Fils. When the phylloxera epidemic destroyed the majority of French vineyards which led to reduced cognac supplies, bartenders substituted American rye whiskey which became the Sazerac as we know it today.

A man named Antoine Amedee Peychaud, a Hatian immigrants son, owned a pharmacy in the French Quarter in the mid 1800s. You mixologists out there may recognize his last name, as his signature brand of bitters is still around today. According to legend, Peychaud was a mixologist himself and liked to create various concoctions combining spirits and other ingredients, and the “cocktail” was born. One of his favorite cocktails included the imported French cognac and was served in an egg-cup, a coquetier in French, which some say is where the word “cocktail” may have originated.

Also around this time in New Orleans, a man named Sewell T. Taylor sold his coffee house to a man named Aaron Bird in order to become an importer of spirits, and one of his main imports was, you guessed it, Sazerac de Forge et Fils. Now, if you can believe this, Bird renamed the coffee house to the Sazerac Coffee House. (Apparently this cognac was very popular!)  And, naturally, they began serving the Sazerac, which quickly became highly favored amongst New Orleans residents. 

Although there isn’t any documentation that I could find in my research of Peychaud sharing his recipe with the Sazerac Coffee House, it’s not a stretch of the imagination that he knew, or was even friends with Taylor and Bird, and gladly shared his recipe knowing they would be buying his bitters in order to make Sazeracs for all their patrons. 

What a great example of American innovation, teamwork, and success!

The RECIPEs

As discussed, there are several ways of making a Sazerac: the original recipe, and what has become the modern recipe. And while there are many variations of the two, we are going to give you what we believe are the most accurate. However, the ingredients for the original recipe will be harder to get your hands on, and most likely a bit more expensive. And bartenders and mixologists seem to stand by the modern recipe as the superior one, claiming that rye whiskey pairs better with the bitters. Either way, we think they are both delicious, and a big part of the fun is experiencing a patriotic, historical drink with deep roots in American culture.

Here’s to you, and here’s to America! Cheers!

Original Sazerac

What you’ll need:

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 1 ½ ounces of Sazerac de Forge et Fils cognac
  • ¼ ounce of Absinthe
  • 3 dashes of Peychaud bitters
  • lemon peel


Instructions:

  1. Pack and Old-Fashioned glass with ice.
  2. In a second Old-Fashioned glass place the sugar cube and add the Peychaud’s Bitters to it, then crush the sugar cube.
  3. Add the Sazerac de Forge & Fils Cognac to the second glass containing the Peychaud’s Bitters and sugar.
  4. Empty the ice from the first glass and coat the glass with the Herbsaint, then discard the remaining Herbsaint.
  5. Empty the Cognac/bitters/sugar mixture from the second glass into the first glass and garnish with lemon peel.
  6. Enjoy!

A modern Sazerac

What you’ll need:

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 1½ oz. Sazerac Rye Whiskey or Buffalo Trace Bourbon
  • ¼ oz. Herbsaint
  • 3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
  • lemon peel


Instructions:

  1. Pack and Old-Fashioned glass with ice
  2. In a second Old-Fashioned glass place the sugar cube and add the Peychaud’s Bitters to it, then crush the sugar cube.
  3. Add the Sazerac de Forge & Fils Cognac to the second glass containing the Peychaud’s Bitters and sugar.
  4. Empty the ice from the first glass and coat the glass with the Herbsaint, then discard the remaining Herbsaint.
  5. Empty the Cognac/bitters/sugar mixture from the second glass into the first glass and garnish with lemon peel.
  6. Enjoy!