Vintage Cocktails Day is back and today we’re looking a the one that started it all, the Sazarac. Now, I have it on good authority that the word cocktail originated because of this drink due to some silly American misinterpretation of the French word coquetier. The French were in the French Quarter doing their thing, and the American soldiers picked up what they heard as “cocktail” in reference to a mix of booze, water, sugar, and bitters.
The original Sazarac, which is the official cocktail of New Orleans, included the green fairy Absinthe as an ingredient. Absinthe was later replaced with Rye Whiskey when it became illegal after a rash of criminal activity which laid blame on the cocktail’s lore. (Thankfully, that ban was lifted in 2007, but we’ll talk about that another week.)
“The creation of the Sazerac has also been credited to Antoine Amadie Peychaud, the Creole apothecary who moved to New Orleans from the West Indies and set up shop in the French Quarter in the early part of the 19th Century. He dispensed a proprietary mix of aromatic bitters from an old family recipe. According to legend he served his drink in the large end of an egg cup that was called a coquetier in French, and that the Americanized pronunciation of this as “cocktail” gave this type of drink its name. However, the word cocktail predates this by decades, first appearing in print in 1803, and first defined in print in 1806 as “a mixture of spirits of any kind, water, sugar and bitters, vulgarly called a bittered sling.” .
In March 2008, Louisiana state senator Edwin Murray (D-New Orleans) filed Senate Bill 6 designating the Sazerac as Louisiana’s official state cocktail. The bill was defeated on April 8, 2008. The state Senate then approved a revised bill designating it as the official cocktail for New Orleans only, rather than the entire state, but the state House then reverted the bill back to its original form. The Senate then rejected the bill again, sending it to conference committee. The committee said it should be the official New Orleans cocktail and the Senate agreed. However, the House then failed to concur. Finally, on June 23, 2008 the House agreed to proclaim the Sazerac as New Orleans’ official cocktail.”
The Sazerac Bar, New Orleans
How to make a Sazarac:
1/2 teaspoon absinthe, or Herbsaint (a New Orleans brand of anise liqueur)
1 teaspoon of simple syrup (or 1 sugar cube or 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar)
4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
1 small dash, a scant drop, of Angostura bitters (extremely optional; some feel it helps open the flavors, but traditionalists may leave it out).
2 ounces rye whiskey.
Strip of lemon peel
The traditional method: Pack a 3-1/2 ounce Old Fashioned (rocks) glass with ice. In another Old Fashioned glass, moisten the sugar cube with just enough water to saturate it, then crush. Blend with the whiskey and bitters. Add a few cubes of ice and stir to chill. Discard the ice from the first glass and pour in the Herbsaint. Coat the inside of the entire glass, pouring out the excess. Strain the whiskey into the Herbsaint coated glass. Twist the lemon peel over the glass so that the lemon oil cascades into the drink, then rub the peel over the rim of the glass; do not put the twist in the drink. Or, as Stanley Clisby Arthur says, “Do not commit the sacrilege of dropping the peel into the drink.”