Cocktail Trials: The Sazerac

Note: I have been drinking the same cocktail since college. The humble gin and tonic has served my 20s well. It’s simple, frill-less and ubiquitous.  However, I’m broadening my horizons and finding a new (for lack of a less cringe-inducing, pretentious-sounding term) signature cocktail. Here is the journey, one drink at a time. Now up:

The Sazerac:

This classic from pre-civil War New Orleans and is (debate-ably) the country’s oldest cocktail.  It’s getting a tryout because of it’s awesome birthplace, history and bad-ass alcohol content.

After spotting the main ingredient a rye whiskey (shockingly, called Sazerac) on a recent trip to Brookyln, I decided that I had to try this at home.

Collecting the ingredients took some thought. I picked up a bottle of Peychauds Bitters from that same NY liquor store, but absinthe had to come from Virginia (it’s not yet legal everywhere) and my husband made up a batch of simple syrup.


Chill an old-fashioned glass (check out these stained glass ones I took from my grandma’s china cabinet) by either filling it with ice and letting it sit or by sticking it in the freezer. In a shaker, muddle the simple syrup and Peychaud bitters. Add the Sazerac (or another rye) and ice to the bitters mixture and shake. Discard the ice in the chilled glass and rinse it with absinthe by pouring a small amount into the glass, swirling it around and discarding the liquid. Strain the whiskey mixture from the mixing glass into the old fashioned glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

The Verdict: A strong contender, the Sazerac doesn’t have (many) hangover inducing sugary components. It also has my second favorite liquor (rye), a close second to the true love of my drinking life (gin).  A sazerac is pleasantly (but not obnoxiously) obscure.  However, so few bars make a Sazerac, I don’t think it can really be “the one.”  Sorry, “Saz” you might have to be a staying-in drink.

Sazerac in the Wild

In case you want to try this, but don’t want to commit to purchasing an entire bottle of absinthe, my go-to bar in Old Town Alexandria, Columbia Firehouse, makes an excellent Sazerac. Another favorite DC restaurant Founding Farmers has the drink on the menu, but its Sazerac is lacking. (Sorry, Founding Farmers, I still love your chicken and waffles).


  1. Just drink an old fashioned. Same thing without the absinthe (I don’t like the taste of anise so I prefer that anyway.) I think the ones we had at Commodore were a bit heavy on the bitters, and I also don’t think he made them with rye (whether or not the drink gets rye is a point of contention, apparently.)

    • Eric, this is a very important decision, and I don’t want to jump into anything here. I’ll add old fashion to my contenders list. But I still have to shop around.

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