View Full Version : Sazerac Cocktail
Inspired by Tim's tasting of straight ryes I thought I'd make a Sazerac. This is a New Orleans cocktail which has been made with different spirits in its history but is mainly associated with rye whiskey.
I decided to use Royal Reserve, the Corby's Canadian whisky I mentioned earlier. This has Lot 40 (straight Canadian rye) in it - what Corby's put in, and what I added on top.
I took a glass, rinsed it in absinthe (legal in Ontario - you can use pastis or any other licorice liqueur in the States). I threw out the absinthe (a light throw, leaving about a 1/4 oz. in the glass). I added a teaspoon of maple syrup for the (essential, I find) sugar component. You can use plain sugar syrup or possibly Southern Comfort or another sweet element.
I tossed in the Lot 40-spiked Royal Reserve.
Dash of Peychaud's bitters. Dash of Collins orange bitters. No ice, per the original recipe and practice in the posh hotels in New Orleans (where I've never been, but never mind).
Swirl (hard) in the big Jim Beam glass.
P.S. You can try this with any straight rye (or combination thereof) but the flavors will be commensurately more intense.
It was, but Tim, didn't you once say (if I am not mistaken) you have never tasted rye whiskey?? http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif
Or putting it a different way, maybe I have a convert. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif The margin between rye and bourbon is not as clear as may seem the case, products such as Grandad 114 and Bulleit sort of straddle the boundary. They would be suitable for the Sazerac Cocktail no less than a good Canadian or rye whiskey. Interestingly, brandy was the original spirit used (Sazerac Cognac, which is still made). The Royal Reserve Canadian whisky I mentioned is a brandy-like drink and maybe that is why it worked well with the Sazerac. But any good rye-edged whiskey will do, and adding a teaspoon of maple syrup or brown sugar adds a brandy/caramel-like taste, in which the hints of the bitters and anise liqueur come through. Cocktails is something I've never really focused on except for two or three classic whiskey cocktails but I can see how they developed from a whiskey tradition. On the other hand, one can argue that a very good whiskey does not need cocktail treatment, it is rich enough and complex on its own. I have argued earlier here that cocktails may have been invented to improve the taste of indifferent whiskey. But it is no less true to say that good whiskey makes a good cocktail.
True, but you all make it sound so good and I believe you. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/icon_pidu.gif
And as you probably know, I am a rye-bourbon devotee, favoring OGD and Wild Turkey bourbons over most others. Rock Hill Farms is my favorite of all time (although I have only had it once). And I am usually unimpressed by wheaters.
Personally Tim, I enjoy the rye whiskey palate but I can see why blended whiskey took off in areas where rye was dominant. It is such a big flavour that unless moderated in some way (through blending and use in cocktails) relatively few people will drink it. This did not happen to bourbon but bourbon is more approachable than rye, its lower rye content means the rye "tang" is minimal (just as it is in a Canadian blended whisky). The answer is to experiment by adding small amounts of rye whisky to bourbon, say, or to Canadian, to get a smoother but rye-edged palate. Rye is so pungent in taste that relatively small amounts will flavor a drink well. And it does make a great cocktail. I am planning to set out a jug of either Sazerac or Manhattan cocktail at the next Gazebo and will show people (and invite their help) as to how I build these drinks.
As a prelude I sat in the Sazerac Bar at the Fairmont Hotel in New Orleans (formerly the Roosevelt Hotel) several years ago and enjoyed their version of the famous Sazerac cocktail. I believed they used Herbsait in place of Absinthe. I believe I recall seeing a version of Absinthe in the U.S. without wormwood oil. For those not familiar with it, the essential oil of wormwood (which if consumed alone could kill) contains a chemical very similar to THC as is in cannabis. The original recipe for the Sazerac and other cocktails using original Absinthe are credited with 'assisting' various artists and writers. I believe in French it is called the "green fairy."
Anyway, I prefer to use simple syrup as a sweetner for a Sazerac.
Thanks for bringing this up, Gary. A Sazerac should be made with rye whiskey as you say -- though some establishments (even pricey ones) use bourbon.
You didn't say how much Rye to use, I am guessing 2 oz. Is that right? I plan to use WT Rye in my first Sazarac. I have a bottle of Absiente I picked up the other day. I will have to use Cointreau for orange bitters.
I'm not sure on Gary's opinion here but if I were making a Sazerac and didn't have orange bitters I wouldn't use Cointreau as an attempt to replace it, I'd just leave it out. Though the Peychaud's is pretty much a requirement.
However as a disclaimer: I will often put a dash of Cointreau in my manhattens, and as such I see no reason not to put a dash into a Sazerac, it could (or more likely will) work quite well. If I had both Cointreau and Orange Bitters, they may well both make it into the drink. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif
Two ounces of the rye for the set-up is fine, yes, that is what I would use. I don't think a dash of Cointreau would hurt if combined with Angostura or Peycheaud's bitters, in fact that combo would resemble (close enough) orange bitters - but not too much Cointreau, just enough to impart a light sweetness. I've seen recipes which use either form of bitters by the way.
The only Sazerac I've had was at the Sheraton in the Big Easy this spring. I ordered it with Maker's and was suitably impressed. I'm sure a more traditional version would be even better.
Best Saz I ever had was the one at Delmonico on St. Charles Ave. in New Orleans. They took some pretty heavy damage though--not sure when they'll reopen. Everyone swears by the Napoleon House--I've somehow missed that joint every time I've been to NO.
Why not use Regan's Orange Bitters? You can get them from the BTD gift shop. Just go to www.buffalotrace.com (http://www.buffalotrace.com) and go to the Gift Shop. It is listed under food.
I took a glass, rinsed it in absinthe (legal in Ontario - you can use pastis or any other licorice liqueur in the States).
Would green Chartreuse work for this?? Can't think of anything in the cabinet with that flavor, exactly.
I've never had Chartreuse, I'm not sure. The flavor needed is of licorice. Pernod and Ricard have it, also, Greek Ouzo and Lebanese Arrack. Any of those would be good, and they are not high cost items. Herbsaint would work, too, a New Orleans version of these drinks.
Chartreuse is an odd bird. It's "herbal" tasting, some mint, some anise..... I may give it a shot (but I wish I had a baseline taste in my mind to compare it to ;0. It's one of those "originally distilled to give health benefits" distillates. I have a glass about once a year.... You should try some. I can just imagine the combinations you'd come up with, Gary!
I did some bad things to my head last year in Greece and there is no ouzo in this house! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/banghead.gif
I never did report on my Sazerac experiment.
I used two oz of Wild Turkey Rye.
A dash Martini Bitter Aperitif and Cointreau. These two added up to less than 5 ml.
And 5 ml of Absente absinthe.
Gary, you said that you didn't use ice but didn't mention if you added water or not. I tried it straight up and it was interesting. The Absinthe dominated the drink. I thought I would have enjoyed the rye better neat though. The same with the absinthe really. I did a web search and found another recipe that did call for ice and also a twist of lemon. While reading that recipe I remembered that I had neglected to add any syrup. I hadn't drunk much of it yet, only a few sips, so I went back to work on it. I made a simple sugar syrup. I just swirled a little sugar with some water in the bottom of a glass and then carefully poured the liquid into the cocktail leaving the undissolved sugar behind as dregs. I didn't have any lemons in the house so I added 1 or 2 ml of lemon extract and 3 or 4 ml of lemon juice. I then added ice and swirled that into the drink. I don't know if what I made can really be called a Sazerac, but it sure tasted good. I later made up another one with just one shot of rye and more Cointreau and the Bitter Aperitif, maybe 5 ml each. I tried to keep the other ingredients in the same proportions to the rye as before. I think that was a little better.
I will continue to experiment and will pick up the proper Peychoud's bitters if I happen to see it.
I'd give it a try Ken, it sounds like it would work well.
It all sounds excellent. I never add water, no. However some sugar syrup is essential, it really marries the other ingredients and is an invariable part of the recipe (according to many I have read). Your adaptation of bitters sounds fine. Try it again with a little less Absente, it needs only a hint of same, ditto the bitters or substitute (two or three drops of each is enough).
I will try it again with the syrup and no water next time. I planning on mixing up a small bottle of the bitters, Cointreau ahead of time. And next time I will use maple syrup as per your original post.
Maple syrup works very well because being derived from trees it seems to complement perfectly a wood-aged product such as bourbon. The drink behind the slight sweetness should have a faint hint of anise and bitters. It is one of those cocktails where the balance really is crucial to the success of the drink. I use pre-sweetened blends of straight whiskey to make it. Another idea is to add a dash of Southern Comfort for the sweet element. The apricot/peach note of the cordial is perfect for such drinks. If say you use Angostura or another kind of bitters the citrus-like notes of the Comfort together with the zesty bitter produce a kind of orange bitters effect - perfect since the drink originally would often have contained this. The idea (as with many cocktails) is to get a balance of sour or tart (bitters), sweet, strong (whiskey) and weak (water or ice where used - again logic compels the answer - if you use 100 proof or higher you may want to add water, I don't because my whiskey blends are about 80-90 proof on average). The old Planter's Punch formula of the British Caribbean was "one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak". The four of weak sounds high but it may have been devised in the light of the overproof whiskey and rum of the day. And of course in a warm climate a long drink was often preferred. Anyway once you adjust the formula to your specific liking you can apply it for Whiskey Sours, Old-Fashioneds, Manhattans and a range of other cocktails both whiskey and non since most are built on a similar principle.
Okay Gary, I tried this last night. Used Old Overholt as the base and pushed the envelope using Chartreuse as the glass coating. Peychaud and Reagan Orange bitters. 1t maple syrup. I think the Chartreuse worked well blending the herbal notes with the two bitters.
Not sure it will ever become a regular thing but it was 'interesting'. I had the impression it was a flat, grown up sodapop.... There was something very familiar about it. Maybe horehound candy?? The bitters and the herbs blended together nicely. I tried a sip before the maple. It needed the maple. Good suggestion!
I've been watching this thread for a while so thought I'd post a recipe I posted here last year. It's for the technically inclined.
Since then I've tried many versions of the Sazerac. IMHO none compare to the recipe below.
I'm all for experimentation myself but sorry guys, I'm not convinced you can still call it a true "Sazerac" with the addition of either maple syrup or Chartreuse (no offence, Gary).
There is another bitters worth trying in substitution for the Peychaud's. It's an Orange bitters from Fee Brothers (Rochester, N.Y.).
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The recipe is complicated, but well worth the effort. It's a definite winner.
(From "sauceguide to Cocktails", Difford's sauceguide volume 4)
glass: old fashioned
1 shot Absinthe
Top up with chilled water
1 shot quality bourbon
1 shot cognac
1/2 shot sugar syrup (gomme)
3 dashes Angostora bitters
3 dashes Peychaud's bitters
Fill glass with ice, pour in Absinthe, top up with water and leave the mixture in the glass. Separately shake Bourbon, Cognac, sugar syrup and bitters with ice. Finally (and this is the important part) discard the entire contents of the original glass (Absinthe, water, ice) and strain contents of shaker into empty Absinthe-coated glass.
This drink hails form the old days of New Orleans. At 10 Exchange Alley, John B. Schiller set up the Sazerac Coffee House - as he was the agent for Sazerac Cognacs, he made this cocktail originally with brandy. The Sazerac Company which developed from the Sazerac Coffee House now also markets Peychaud's bitters, an essential component of this drink and first made in 1793.
Sauce Guide Comment: Don't be concerned about chucking the expensive Absinthe down the drain... its flavour will be very eveident in the finished drink. Made correctly, this is a delightfully interesting herbal classic.
1. I used Absinthe as per the recipe but I did not discard the contents of the glass. I simply put them in a highball glass with a bit more water and my wife enjoyed an nice drink.
2. In the absence of Absinthe, one could attempt to substitute pernod or similar anise based apertif (possibly, although I have not tried this)
3. I didn't have any Remy available so I used a suitable french brandy substitute
4. I generally don't mix my bourbon, neither with other spirits, nor with sweet adjuncts. However, there's something about the origin of this drink, it's other contents, plus the source of this recipe ("sauce guide" to cocktails) that moved me to mix the drink for a friend last weekend and we both agreed it was great.
5. As Buffalo Trace was a sponsor for the Sauce Guide, this bourbon was identified as ideal for the drink. I did use Buffalo Trace with fantastic results.
6. For a more detailed article on the Sazerac, plus a couple of additional recipes, check here.
Sounds great, well done, and Ken for your version, too.
The maple syrup thing is just a variation - I suspect sugar syrup in the mid-1800's was often brown in color from unrefined`sugar, so the maple syrup thing seems close to that in my view. The key is to use a small amount of sucrose and different kinds will I think answer the purpose. This drink really is a kind of grown-up pop drink, well put, Ken.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
As I sit here trapped in the house by a monsoon, I've been enjoying my own interpretation of the Gillman Sazerac.
* Pour a small amount of Sambucca into a snifter and swirl around. Dump any excess.
* Add 1 tsp maple syrup.
* Add 2 oz. Four Roses SB or other high-rye bourbon.
* Add 1 tsp Stirings Blood Orange bitters (don't know how this rates in the world of bitters, but it looked interesting).
* Swirl vigorously, sniff, sip, enjoy.
Sounds great Mike. I don't know how bitter that quantity of bitters would be, I might have used a quarter teaspoon only, but it sounds very good.
I have found that a low-rye bourbon just doesn't make it with this drink.
You need a high rye bourbon or rye proper or a blend of rye and bourbon.
You brought up a good point that might freak people out about my above recipe. This brand of bitters comes in a fairly large bottle and I think is FAR less concentrated than most. A dash or 2 would hardly be noticed. At 1 tsp., I finally got a nice herbal undertone, reminding me of Chartreuse or Benedictine liquor.
I picked up some Angostora bitters last week and decided to make a Sazerac. I have some Absinthe that my wife brought back to me from the Czech Republic. I used about a 1/4 teaspoon to coat the inside of a chilled glass. I mixed 2 ounces of Sazerac Rye Whiskey 6YO with a tablespoon of sugar and 1/2 tablespoon of bitters and added to the chilled glass. It was excellent!
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