It's not all beads and king cake in New Orleans; there's a thriving cocktail scene that keeps the city stocked year-round. While visitors may go for the classic Hurricane when making a pit stop, locals are sippin' on a homegrown secret — a classic Sazerac. Recognized as America's first cocktail, the Sazerac isn't like any drink you've tried before. One sip and you'll know why we're still requesting this boozy drink from the bayou 150+ years later.
How to Make a Classic Sazerac
The Sazerac was dubbed America's first cocktail, supposedly making a debute in the Sazerac Coffee House on Royal Street in New Orleans around the mid-19th century. Mixed with rye whiskey and Peychaud's bitters, the Sazerac is a unique cocktail that whiskey fans will love.
- ¼ ounce absinthe
- 2 ounces rye whiskey
- 3-4 dashes Peychaud's bitters
- ½ ounce simple syrup
- Lemon twist for garnish
- Chill a rocks glass.
- Rinse chilled glass with absinthe, discarding the rest.
- In a second rocks glass, add ice, whiskey, bitters, and simple syrup.
- Stir to chill.
- Strain into prepared glass over fresh ice.
- Garnish with lemon peel.
Don't skimp on quality whiskey! Sazerac Rye is ideal for this drink. It has a robust flavor of spice, fruity sweetness, and subtle earthy notes like cloves and dill.
Exciting Variations and Substitutions to Try
Like many drinks of a historical caliber, there will always be several ways to shake a cocktail. Whatever recipe, variation, or substitution you follow, you'll still find a Sazerac at the bottom of your glass.
- You can serve a Sazerac over fresh ice, a king cube, or neat in a rocks glass.
- Some people like to add an ⅛ ounce of cold water and others up to 2 ounces.
- If you don't care for rye, you can use bourbon instead. Cognac is also a possible base spirit; use 1 ounce each of cognac and whiskey.
- In addition to Peychaud's bitters, you can use orange, walnut, or rhubarb bitters.
- Instead of simple syrup, consider using raspberry liqueur to add a hint of sweetness with a punch of berry flavor.
- For something a bit livelier than the regular Sazerac, cut the rye whiskey in half and add equal parts moonshine. But if you don't like snoozing through your morning alarms, you might want to proceed with caution.
- In a mixing glass, muddle a sugar cube with 3 dashes of Peychaud's bitters and 1 dash of aromatic bitters. Add ice, 1 ounce each of bourbon and cognac, stirring rapidly to chill. Strain into an absinthe rinsed rocks glass, and serve either neat or with fresh ice.
Related: Guide to Bitters & How to Make Them
Experiment With Fun Garnishes
The traditional Sazerac garnish might be a lemon twist, but that doesn't mean you have to play it safe. Stick with whichever garnish makes your parade march.
- If you still want a lemon flavor, use a lemon wheel, slice, or wedge.
- To boost the look of the classic lemon peel, use a lemon ribbon for a fancier, decadent touch.
- Orange also complements the spirit flavors in a Sazerac, which means an orange wheel, wedge, or slice all complete one nicely.
- For a less powerful citrus flavor, use an orange peel, twist, or ribbon.
- A dehydrated citrus wheel makes the stoic Sazerac look and feel even more extravagant.
- Flame the citrus peel, whether lemon or orange, to make a Sazerac that pleases all of your senses.
Settle in French Quarter Style With a Sazerac
Whether you want to enjoy America's first cocktail in its original form or play with flavors and ingredients to modernize it, you'll enjoy settling in with a Sazerac at hand. Remember to show the Sazerac respect, or else it'll show you who's boss. You just may find yourself tucked in for an afternoon nap in no time.