Welcome To Wonkette Happy Hour, With This Week's Cocktail, The Sazerac!
Greetings, Wonketeers! I’m Hooper, your bartender. I lucked into a really nice bottle this week. It’s not easy to get Sazerac Rye here in Ohio, so I leapt at the chance to scoop this one up. Now that I have it, I thought I’d share the classic New Orleans cocktail that carries the same name as the whiskey. Laissez le bon temps rouler, we’re making a Sazerac. Here’s the recipe:
1 ½ oz Sazerac Rye Whiskey
1 ½ oz Hennessy VS Cognac
1 sugar cube
4 shakes Angostura Bitters
4 shakes Peychaud’s Bitters
Place a sugar cube into a double old fashioned glass. Shake the bitters out onto the sugar cube. Wait 30-45 seconds, long enough for the bitters to soak completely into the sugar cube. Muddle the sugar cube. Swirl the sugar and bitters until the sugar has almost completely dissolved. Add the cognac to the glass. Swirl a little bit more, dissolving more of the sugar. Add the rye whiskey and a large ice cube. Spray a small amount of absinthe over (not into) the glass with an atomizer. Garnish with the lemon twist.
Yes, that is a lot of fuss to make over one cocktail. In a professional environment, I’d never take that much time over one drink. But if I was making one or two of these, for myself and a close friend, perhaps, to be sipped over cigars as we talked shop on the wrought iron balcony of a Beale Street address … yes indeed I’d take the time to fiddle with a drink like this. Because sometimes the care and craft you take with a thing gives it a value all its own. These bottles aren’t cheap. Taking your time over them makes them feel a little bit more special, and worth the price.
Even if you aren’t the type to linger over a cocktail (or to buy three pricey bottles for one drink), there are some little tricks here worth exploring. I’ve never been a fan of the “Wisconsin style” Old Fashioned (and in case you didn’t catch it, this is a gussied-up version of an ordinary Old Fashioned). It turns out that taking your time with the process, and using a lot of bitters, makes a very tasty drink. Time, in a way, adds its own spice to the things we do to relax.
Let’s talk ingredients:
Ingredient shot. And a somewhat crowded one at that. Matthew Hooper
Sazerac Rye: Sazerac whiskey dates back to the dawn of American spirits. In the 1800s, if you inquired discreetly at the Sazerac Coffee House, you could drink a hot toddy made with rye whiskey and Peychaud’s Bitters on a cold, damp winter night. These days, Sazerac is an international distributor of multiple liquor brands, it hasn’t forgotten its roots. They’re still making Sazerac whiskey, and it is a very good whiskey indeed. I’ve had some strong, peppery ryes before, but Sazerac has some very nice butterscotch, mellow orange, and anise notes as well. This is a whiskey that would be very, very nice in some chicory coffee with good cream and brown sugar. Hopefully with some beignets on the side.
Hennessy Cognac: As I began researching this recipe, I found some sources suggesting that cognac and rye pair well together. I’ve been growing fond of brandy in my whiskey cocktails lately. Brandy can add a mellow richness and fruitiness to a harsh, thin young bourbon. With a star player like Sazerac, things only get better. These two cooperate like ham and turkey on a good club sandwich — different, but similar, harmonizing together. Even if you stick to cheap whiskey most nights, I’d recommend picking up an airline bottle of brandy and experimenting.
Bitters: Angostura bitters are a must in any Old Fashioned. Peychaud’s bitters are a bright red, anise-flavored hallmark of any New Orleans cocktail. There’s no reason to choose between the two. Use both, and use them liberally. Shake them directly onto the sugar cube; let them soak in. Be patient. When the sugar cube is visibly falling apart, it’s time to muddle the drink. (Don’t worry too much about using a bartender-approved muddler. The clean handle of a steak knife is fine.) Swirl the sugar in the bitters. When it’s dissolved roughly halfway, you can begin building the rest of the drink.
Absinthe: A mist of anise over the glass is the hallmark of a true Sazerac. It’s very theatrical — the aroma of the absinthe and the sound of the spritzer turn heads all around the bar. But it may not be entirely necessary. Absinthe is all about the anise flavor, and Peychaud’s bitters already has a great deal of anise in it. It can be argued that the mist and general nature of absinthe separate it from the bitters, but we’re probably splitting hairs. If you do have some absinthe handy, and an atomizer, and want to engage in this soothing ritual when you make the cocktail, please do. But if you skip it, I won’t tell. Just make sure to spritz the absinthe over the glass, as opposed to in the glass. A little goes a long way.
Lemon twist: Pinch the lemon twist lengthwise before you put it into the glass. It should look slightly wet, as the lemon oils express from the peel. Sip your drink, take your time, and enjoy some elegance after a hectic week. You deserve it.
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