While the origins of many cocktails are heatedly debated, clouded in mystery or just plain lost in a boozy fog, the source of the Sazerac is one thing drinkers can agree upon. Born in New Orleans in 1859, the Sazerac was named by John Schiller, proprietor of the Sazerac Coffee House. While Schiller’s version used cognac as the base spirit, the cocktail evolved to replace cognac with rye whiskey and include a dash of absinthe on top of the traditional sugar and Peychaud’s bitters.
After being banned in the United States for nearly a century, absinthe was legalized in 2007, but many Sazerac recipes continue to call for Herbsaint or Pernod. These anise-flavored liqueurs offer a similar flavor but lack the punch of absinthe. Unlike the Sazerac’s other ingredients, the absinthe is used as a rinse – a small amount is poured into the glass, swirled around to coat the inside of the glass and then poured out (or poured down your throat, if you’re opposed to discarding booze).
2 ounces rye whiskey
Absinthe (or Herbsaint/Pernod)
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
1 teaspoon bar sugar or simple syrup
Twist of lemon
Add rye, sugar and bitters to mixing glass and stir with ice. Pour small amount of absinthe or anise substitute into a chilled old-fashioned glass. Swirl to coat the glass and discard the remaining liquid. Strain rye mixture into glass and drop in a twist of lemon.