Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Classic Rye Cocktails, #1: The Sazerac

So it's Wednesday night. The middle of the work week. You check your watch and see it's almost 6PM--the cocktail hour.

You've got that bottle of rye in your liquor cabinet now, and you've had a couple of glasses of rye with a little water or on the rocks. You think it's good, but you're not sure what the fuss is about.

This, my friends, is a good time to start making rye whiskey cocktails. The first one to learn is perhaps the best-known rye-based cocktail, and also one of the oldest.

Long before New Orleans became well-known for that despicable rum-and fruit-juice based concoction called a Hurricane, the Sazerac was king in the Crescent City.

Born in New Orleans in the 1880s, and elevated to classic status in the early 1900s, the Sazerac is a good first rye cocktail. It's easy to make, and it tastes good. Here's what you'll need:

1 sugar cube, rye whiskey, absinthe (or an absinthe substitute, such as Herbsaint), Peychaud's bitters (other bitters will not work well as a substitute--if you can't find Peychaud's where you live, buy some via mail order here), an old fashioned glass, and a mixing glass or shaker.

To make the drink:

1) drop the sugar cube in the mixing glass, along with a tiny bit of water. Muddle.
2) add 2 oz. of rye to the mixing glass
3) add 2-3 dashes of Peychaud's bitters
4) pour .25 oz of absinthe into the old fashioned glass, rotating the glass to coat the inside. Pour out the excess absinthe.
5) add ice to the mixing glass (chipped, can use a high quality blender with an ice crushing blade to achieve the same effect with ice from trays).
6) stir the mixture in the mixing glass or shaker for about 20 seconds.
7) strain off the liquid into the absinthe-coated glass.
8) add a twist of lemon

Our foremothers and forefathers were hale and hearty and you will learn why. Sit back and enjoy some American history.


SwampApe said...

Good choice for a first recipe! Here is a good history/recipe page. I use simple syrup instead of the sugar cube. But don't let the swine get away with using an absinthe substitute . . .

Ann said...

Hi, Rye Drinker--I like your notion of posting recipies for authentic American alcoholic drinks. However, I have to suggest a small correction: I believe the absinthe-like liqueur is known as herbsaint, not herbisant.

And, is it possible that I know Swampape?


A rye-drinker said...

Historiann! Welcome! It's a real honor to have you here.

Thanks for catching the typo--I have to admit that I was in the midst of enjoying a Sazerac as I wrote. Ah, the dangers of blogging while quaffing rye. I'll make the correction.

As for the Swampape, no one can really know him, but yes, I am sure you call him an acquaintance, perhaps even a friend.


A rye-drinker said...


Thanks for the link!

As for the absinthe substitute...we must be careful when introducing the unwashed to the pleasures of America's spirit.

As our guiding light on these matters--Bernard de Voto--famously said:

"Always remember that differences among ourselves will give arms to the heathen."

DrDaRyL said...

Swamp Ape has a point (besides the one on his head). Real absinthe should be a prereq for a Sazarac given the widening availability of traditional grand wormwood versions in the USA--Lucid and St. George Absinthe Verte to name two.

But one ounce swirled in the glass? Only if you pour what's left of that ounce out of the glass and into your mouth ("More monkey cowbell!"). No, my recipes call for a quarter ounce absinthe max--enough to coat but not to waste. The rest of your advice, good doctor, is spot on, as always. It's a healthful tonic (with those Peychaud's bitters), one suited for our troubled lives. DeVoto would approve.

SwampApe said...


Sorry, you can tell what I have been doing tonight . . .

DrDaRyL said...

Actually after writing that last night, I made myself a Green Fairy--couldn't bear the thought of mixing the monkey with rye. I like the St. Georges... its got good mouth feel (from the stinging nettles no doubt). But... back to the rye.