Monday, July 23, 2012

Oui, chef, un Sazerac.

Tomorrow is the beginning of Tales of the Cocktail, a week long celebration of the libation down in the Big Easy.  The cocktail elite, liquor brands big and small, as well as notorious writers and obscure bloggers (such as yours truly) will be there to learn, taste, and toast to the cocktail.  Our schedule is jam packed with seminars, tastings, and opportunities to meet master distillers from some of our favorite brands.

Excitement, is an understatement.

Being that this is our first trip to New Orleans, we've been brushing up on our New Orleans history and naturally, drinking many Sazeracs. 

Image via The Roosevelt Hotel

Here is the recipe, in case you are thirsty:

Sazerac Cocktail

2 oz Rye Whiskey (Bullet Rye, Sazerac Rye, Wild Turkey 101, etc)
1/4 oz Simple Syrup
4 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
1/2 t. Absinthe, Pernod, or Herbsaint Liqueur
1 Lemon Peel Twist

But the tradition is really in the process. 

This cocktail requires two chilled old fashioned glasses, one prepared with an Absinthe wash with the excess thrown away.  The other is used to stir the Rye, the simple syrup, and the bitters.  If you're using sugar cubes instead of simple syrup, muddle the bitters and sugar together before adding the Rye.  Once mixed, the cocktail is then poured into the first glass, and the lemon peel is squeezed into the cocktail to release the citrus oils, swiped around the lip of the glass, and then discarded.

The Sazerac is rumored to be the first American cocktail, that is one that was not "a mixture of spirits of any kind, water, sugar and bitters, vulgarly called a bittered sling".  But we can see the Sazerac's roots in the Cock-Tail of eras gone by.  The Sazerac of the 1850s was made with cognac, Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils cognac, and were mixed by a Mr Sewell T. Taylor at the Merchants Exchange Coffee House.

The bar was later bought by Aaron Bird, and its name changed to The Sazerac House, where the house cocktail was the Sazerac, featuring locally made bitters made by Antoine Amedie Peychaud.  Some claim that the first Sazerac was actually poured by Peychaud, who originally served them into double-end egg cups known as coquetiers (pronounced koh-kuh-TYAYS).  Legend has it that the word "cocktail" was born as coquetiers stumbled from the lips of imbibers turning into cock-tail.

The cocktail was later featured in the 1908 edition of The World's Drinks and How to Mix Them by William Boothby, but used Rye Whiskey instead of cognac.  This switch is credited to the Phylloxera Vastatrix aphid that was killing all of the vineyards in France (a phenomenon also credited to the increasing popularity of absinthe in the late 1800s).  Rye was commonly available in New Orleans at the time, and continues to be a traditional spirit of the region.

The Sazerac was made the official cocktail of New Orleans on June 23, 2008. The cocktail has come to symbolize the city, as seen in this scene of Treme where Janette surprises restaurant critic Alan Richman with the cocktail:

We plan on doing plenty of taste testing while in NOLA, it seems as though there are some variations on the process of this legendary drink, simple syrup or a cube a sugar and water, or the type of Rye Whiskey used, absinthe, pernod, or the NOLA traditional Herbsaint...  But of all of the possible variations, it seems that the structure of the cocktail is steadfast, and so are it's fans.

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