There are few cities in the world with an official drink, but as Lu Brown, bar chef of The Swizzle Stick Bar in New Orleans so appropriately stated to NPR last month, “If ever there was a city that deserved an official drink, it was New Orleans.”
She made the elated comment following the Louisiana House of Representatives decision – a vote of 62-33 – to appoint the sazerac New Orleans’ official cocktail.
But as Eric Asimov asks why in today’s The Pour (he would have preferred the more palatable Ramos gin fizz), I applaud the Louisiana legislature for such a bold and historical statement.
The sazerac, with birthrights in the bayou, a combination of Rye whiskey, bitters, citrus and absinthe, it may be less accessible than the Ramos gin fizz or a hurricane cocktail, but its nuanced qualities hark back to the flavors of pre-civil war New Orleans, a time of generational family remedies and root tonics.
When Antoine Peychaud poured first of the mixture in his apothecary in 1850, there could be little foresight to his contribution in the evolution of mixology. Today, a new generation of bartenders and mixologists are learning the history with vigilance to the impact of this deceivingly simple cocktail.
And being deceptively easy, with only but a few ingredients, a sazerac, if attempted by even the slightest inept bartender, can result in a concoction abrasive enough to turn Blanche DuBois from the bottle. Performed earnestly, the character is sweet, earthy and floral, with pleasant medicinal notes.
Albeit, bearing precise measurement and technique, sazeracs are still sipping drinks, even for the most experienced southern gentleman. As David Woondrich, author of “Imbibe!” quipped in The Pour, comparing the sazerac to the Ramos gin fizz:
“I love a sazerac. It’s poetry in a glass, though so’s a gin fizz. I can’t have too many of those because of all the cream and the eggs. Of course, I can’t have too many sazeracs either, because I’ll fall down.”
This is the recipe bar chef Lu Brown uses at The Swizzle Stick Bar in New Orleans. This is perhaps the best recipe and technique I’ve seen. However, I prefer to use real absinthe – it being attainable now – in place of Herbsaint. I recommend St. George Absinthe, which is distilled in California.
1 tbsp of Herbsaint
1.5 oz Rye Whiskey, preferably Old Overholt or Sazerac rye
0.5 tsp simple syrup
4-5 dashes of Peychaud bitters
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
1 twist of lemon, no pith
Coat or wash glass with Herbsaint by swirling. Discard the excess Herbsaint. Fill the glass with ice to chill.
Pour the rye, simple syrup and Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters into a shaker with ice. Cover and shake vigorously.
Discard the ice from the glass and strain the shaker mixture. Rub the rim of the glass with the lemon twist, add to the drink and serve immediately.
The Short Buzz is a regular post highlighting spirits.