Sazerac

by Gaz Regan · Friday, December 30th, 2011 · gaz's Cocktail Book

The Sazerac, which dates back to the 1850s, was originally made with a cognac base, but when France suffered the phylloxera epidemic that decimated her vineyards in the late nineteenth century, Americans started using straight rye whiskey instead.  After all, if there are no grapes, there’ll be no wine, and without wine, you can’t make cognac.
15 ml (.5 oz) absinthe
60 ml (2 oz) straight rye whiskey
15 ml (.5 oz) simple syrup
3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
1 lemon twist, for garnish
Rinse a chilled old-fashioned glass with the absinthe, add crushed ice and set it aside.  Stir the remaining ingredients over ice and set it aside.  Discard the ice and any excess absinthe from the prepared glass, and strain the drink into the glass.  Add the garnish.bitters”

Sazerac Variations

Creole Sazerac
Adaopted from a recipe by Tim Etherington Judge, India.
“This drink came to life after a particularly invigorating conversation with a French guest where we discussed the influence of French drinks across the world. This drink showcases 3 generations of French influence, from the Chartreuse mountains near Grenoble to the French Antilles of Martinique ending up in the style of the favourite cocktail of the famous Creole town, New Orleans.” Tim Etherington Judge.
Green Chartreuse rinse
50 ml (1 2/3 oz) Rhum Clement VSOP
10 ml (1/3 oz) Rhum Clement Creole Shrubb
3 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
1 barspoon of 50/50 sugar syrup
Fill a small old fashioned glass with ice and a rinse of Chartreuse Green. In a mixing glass filled with ice place the Rhum, Creole Shrubb, Peychaud’s bitters and sugar syrup; stir until cold.  Discard the ice from the first glass leaving a hint of the Chartreuse behind and strain in the rhum mixture. Spritz an orange peel across the top of the drink to emphasize the orange notes of the drink and discard.

Highland Sazerac
Adapted from a recipe by Don Lee, PDT, New York
Yellow Chartreuse, for rinsing the glass
45 ml (1.5 oz) Hennessy cognac
15 ml (.5 oz) Glenmorangie 10-year-old single malt scotch
7.5 ml (.25 oz) simple syrup
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 lemon twist, for garnish
Stir over ice and strain into a chilled, yellow Chartreuse-rinsed , ice-filled old-fashioned glass. Add the garnish.

La Tour Eiffel
San Francisco Chronicle, 2007.  by gaz regan.
I was recently press-ganged into joining a bunch of bartenders in the Cognac region of France on a trip to tour 10 Cognac houses in 96 hours. If you figure that around four hours a day were given over to feeding our weary bodies, and we managed to get an average of, oh, say, five hours sleep a night, we were left with six hours per distillery, including travel time. There was barely time left for drinking, but we managed to elbow up to the zinc bar quite frequently all the same.

We visited the “Big Four” Cognac houses, like Martell, Hennessy and Courvoisier, as well as a number of smaller producers, where we met some of the quirkier characters in the Cognac business.

Benedict Hardy, the charming and savvy head of the Hardy Cognac house, and seemingly one of the very few women higher than bottling-plant level in the Cognac business, helped me brush up on my French over a sumptuous dinner followed by a few tots of her company’s finest Cognac. During dinner the conversation turned to the first “Star Wars” movie. I seized the opportunity to increase my French vocabulary, and now, when bidding my French friends au revoir I leave them with, “Que la force soit avec vous.” They’re always mightily impressed.

At the house of Cognac Frapin I met a remarkable man by the name of Max Cointreau. He’s now the patriarch of the Frapin household and a descendant of the people who created Cointreau in the mid-1870s. It’s one of my very favorite liqueurs. And Max Cointreau is a delight.
I didn’t hear any earth-shattering secrets about Cointreau from Max, save the fact that it was originally deemed a “triple sec” because the third recipe used during the development phase of this fine, dry, peppery orange-flavored liqueur, was the one that is still used today. I was also amused to hear that Max’s father used to tell his Scottish mother that English was merely French, pronounced badly.

On the last day of our trip my fellow bartenders and I staged a cocktail demonstration for various and sundry Cognac dignitaries. We’d been asked to create new drinks with a Cognac base for the occasion, and I created a variation on the classic American cocktail the Sazerac. I wondered how would it have been made if the drink had been developed in Orleans, France, instead of New Orleans. I had no time to actually experiment with the formula that I came up with through my musings, though, so I prayed that it would prove at least palatable.

The Sazerac started its life as a Cognac-based drink, but since the late 1800s it’s been more commonly made with bourbon or rye whiskey. This is due, most people think, to the late 19th century phylloxera epidemic that decimated most of Europe’s vineyards, thus limiting Cognac. Pernod is commonly used to rinse the glass used to serve a Sazerac, yielding a wonderful aroma of anise as the glass nears the nose, and simple syrup and Peychaud’s bitters — another anise-centered component — round out the ingredients.

There was no need to dispense with the Pernod in my new drink, but I surmised that any French bartender worth his salt would have discarded the simple syrup in favor of Cointreau. All that was left to figure out was what a 19th century barkeep in the Loire Valley might have used instead of Peychaud’s bitters? Suze was the answer.

Suze was created in France in 1889. It’s a digestif that relies on gentian, the roots of a European plant that are both bitter and aromatic, as its focus, and although it can be found easily in France, Suze can be difficult to procure in the United States. My cocktail, which I named for the Eiffel Tower, since the Parisian landmark opened in the same year that Suze was created, was well received by our amis francais, and I suggest you give it a try if the fancy takes you. The drink is dedicated to those 50-some people who gathered that afternoon at the office of the Bureau National Interprofessionnel de Cognac. Unbeknownst to them, they tasted the drink before anyone else in the world. Yours truly included.

Que la force soit avec vous, mes amis.

7.5 ml (.25 oz) absinthe, to rinse the glass
75 ml (2.5 oz) XO cognac
15 ml (.5 oz) Cointreau
15 ml (.5 oz) Suze
1 lemon twist, for garnish
Pour the absinthe into a chilled champagne flute, and by tilting the glass and rotating it at the same time, coat the entire interior of the glass.  Add a few ice cubes to the glass, and set it aside.  Stir the remaining ingredients over ice, discard the ice and any excess absinthe from the champagne flute, and strain the drink into the glass.  Add the garnish.

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