More info about the cocktail
The Sazerac is a close but comparatively unknown relative of the venerable Old Fashioned. Both are based on a spirit, sugar, (melting) water and a bitter. Unlike its well-known brother, however, the cocktail is served straight up, without ice cubes. For this reason, you should always use a pre-cooled glass.
Instead of the sugar cube, you can use 5 ml of sugar syrup (1:1) for its preparation. This way you can be sure that no sugar crystals in the finished cocktail will interfere with the enjoyment of your guests.
Whiskey or Cognac – Which spirit for an original Sazerac?
As with many historic cocktails, the recipe for the drink changed over time. The original recipe clearly provides for cognac*, as it got its name from the cognac brand Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils, which was first imported to the United States in the mid-19th century.
Due to the devastating phylloxera plague in Europe, the use of cognac became increasingly rare from the 1870s. For this reason, from then on Rye whiskey* was used for the preparation of the Sazerac. When the availability of cognac increased after the end of the phylloxera plague, many bars again use the typical spirit. However, to this day there exist lovers of the cocktail who prefer its preparation with rye whiskey*.
The history of the Sazerac
The exact history of the Sazerac’s origins is also not proven beyond doubt. Legend has it that it was first served by Aaron Bird at Sazerac Coffee House. The latter bought the store formerly known as the Merchant Exchange from Sewell T. Taylor, who tried his entrepreneurial luck by importing spirits. One of them was the cognac brand Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils, the name donor of the cocktail.
The bitters used for the Sazerac were supposedly made by the local apothecary named Antoine Amédée Peychaud. The bitters inspired by its Creole ancestry can be found as Peychaud Bitters at well-stocked liquor stores.
When Thomas Handy took over the Coffee House in 1870, cognac was no longer available in Europe due to the terrible grapevine blight. The pest, imported from America, devastated French vineyards, bringing down some of the best-known wineries of the time and bringing cognac production to a virtual standstill. Rye whiskey was therefore used as a substitute. This was readily available and did not have to be imported from the Old World.
The first officially published recipe for the Sazerac is found in the 1908 book The World’s Drinks and How to Mix Them by William T. “Cocktail Bill” Boothby. However, in the recipe published here, Selner Bitters were used instead of Peychaud’s.
When absinthe was banned in the USA in 1912, anise-flavored liqueurs were used as a substitute.