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Mar 27, 2009 07:28 AM

Best Sazerac in NOLA

Lately it seems that all Sazeracs that I have ordered have been very low quality(I think they are using some sort of bottled bar syrup) and not necessarily using rye whiskey. Please let me know who makes the best old fashioned sazerac. In recent memory, Library Lounge did make a mean drink, but besides that, my experiences with most places have been poor or average at best. Needless to say, I am pretty excited about the Sazerac Bar reopening this summer. I am also interested to know if anyone is substituting absinthe for Herbsaint when making the drink? We recently went to an absinthe tasting session at Mortons and have become avid absinthe enthusiasts! We currently live in St. Louis and family is in NOLA and come home every 2-3 months. We will be back for French Quarter Fest and was just seeking some guidance on the best cocktails. Any thoughts or suggestions?

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  1. The Obituary Cocktail book is a fun read. I took it through the Qtr to various bars and ordered their signature drinks. There are bar tours, but I prefer going w/my own group on our own time.

    1 Reply
    1. re: edible complex

      I adore that book. I purchased it a few years ago and really enjoyed it. I forgot that I had it, so thanks for the reminder. I love Keri McCafferty and have a collection of her books.

    2. A worthy inquiry...I shall watch for the results with interest. Used to be that Chuck at Commander's (25 years ago) made a perfect one...the Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt (I won't use the F word) was good but you had to remember that they used Wild Turkey 101 Rye---I expect they will do so when they reopen. For the longest time all you could get was a bourbon approximation but the resurgence of interest in rye has been a boon. For teh most part, though, I gave up years ago and just make one myself, using my ancient recipe, or train a waiter somewhere to make it. It is hard thesedays to keep a bartender or waiter in training, though. Almost all the Sazeracs--almost all--that people have told me were their favorites are too sweet. It is like an Old Fashioned in that rspect..just a little bit of sweetness goes a LONG way, but Americans as a rule seem to adore saccharine excess. The sazerac as I was brought up to appreciate it (by folks who weredrinking it in the early 20th century) relies on those bitters and, in the case of real purists, the lemon twist without the white pulp. It is the last surviving cocktail that meets the old 19th century standard...taste good, smell good, look good. Properly done, it stands with the martini as a monument to man's genius.

      1 Reply
      1. re: hazelhurst

        I'm fond of Napoleon House's Sazerac's.

      2. Chris Hannah makes a beautiful sazerac at Arnaud's 75 Bar (next door to Arnaud's restaurant, French Quarter).

        Call to find out when master bartender Chris McMillian is on duty at the bar at the Renaissance Pere Marquette Hotel (Common Street in the Central Business District -- just a block or so uptown of Canal Street). Chris is a great bartender and a living encyclopedia of cocktail lore. He also makes the city's best Mint Julep, and a perfect Ramos Gin Fizz.

        I've had great Sazeracs at Tujaques, but I think it depends on who's tending bar.

        I don't like sweet Sazeracs either. Ask your bartender to start with just half a teaspoon of simple syrup. It's easy enough to add a dash more syrup if it's not sweet enough.

        Good luck!

        11 Replies
        1. re: BrooksNYC

          Sound advice regarding Sazeracs...I shall investigate te Mint Julep(emphatically NOT a New Orleans drink) and I wonder about the Fizz...I have "The Original" recipe in my collection.

          1. re: hazelhurst

            "The Original" calls for Old Tom gin. Is that the recipe you have?

            Mint juleps are not a New Orleans drink -- you're right, Hazelhurst. I mention juleps only because Mr. McMillian's version has long been considered the city's best.

            So what are the classic New Orleans cocktails? The Sazerac and the Ramos Gin Fizz tower above the others, in my opinion, but satellites would include Bourbon or Brandy Milk Punch, Pimm's Cup, Absinthe Frappé, Absinthe Suissesse, the Vieux Carré and the Obituary Cocktail. Café Brûlot is an after-dinner libation, but a classic way to end a meal at old-guard restaurants like Galatoire's and Arnaud's.

            It's a sad commentary on the decline of New Orleans' cocktail culture that many people, when asked to name New Orleans' classic cocktails, rattle off a list of pre-mixed, glow-in-the-dark Bourbon Street drinks. Hurricanes have been around since the 1940s, but most bars nowadays use packaged or bottled mixes. (And the less said about Hand Grenades, the better!)

            Anyone who enjoys well-crafted cocktails should do a little homework before going to New Orleans. It's well worth seeking out great bars and the handful of skilled bartenders who know their stuff.

            1. re: BrooksNYC

              Y'know, I've not looked at that Fizz recipe in ages---hell, I haven't made one in twenty years---so I;ll look at it but I think you are right. The story behind my copy is that, when Prohibition arrived, the Ramos Brothers gave out the recipe as a public service for them as could find the ingredients. As a boy, I was taken to the Roosevelt to see the men behind the bar pass the shaker down the length of the bar, each one giving it a vigorous rattle..quite a show.

              There is a Mint Julep recipe in town--was it at the Ritz?--that involved something like pears...the key to that drink is good bourbon and high quality SHAVED ice. Anyone who serves a julep in a chilled glass or one that has frosting etched upon the glass should be horsewhipped.


              1. re: BrooksNYC

                Your correspndent did something---hell if I know--that shut down the prvious post before I was finished. drink that I do not see in the city much anymore is the daiquiri. Used to be everywhere for the obvious NOLA/Cuba connection of yore. Also we had REAL gin & tonics...try to find one today. They will have gin, sure, maybe some lime, but they will be offered with that goddamn bar tank-tonic instead of coming from a bottle of quinine water. Those bar-gun obscenities make a mockery of tonic and soda. And then there is the ice! Let's not get started on the infamies that masquerade as ice today. That junk that comes from ice machines is only good for keeping fish cold.

                And while we are on the subject, whatthehell ever happened to Chablis Cassis? (No, not a damn "Kir"--I hate that term) Just a decent chablis cassis. A refreshing drink, like a champagne cocktail. Oh well, I'll just move into the dinosaur section of the museum.

                1. re: hazelhurst

                  I have recently taken an avid interest in classic cocktails. People in my generation do not appreciate or enjoy what an absolute pleasure it can be to enjoy one (or a few) well made cocktails. I have always been a bit of an old soul and have enjoyed dirty martinis, Sazeracs and the like since I was much younger. (I am 32 now) I have taken the time to read up on the history of various cocktails and have attempted the "craft" of creating a good old fashioned cocktail with quality ingredients. My new favorites are Sidecar and any cocktail made with Creme de Violette. Each week my husband and I try a new classic cocktail, pair it with appropriate fare, and read the history of that particular drink. We have a "happy hour" of sorts in our home prior to dinner and have truly enjoyed this. We have started throwing true cocktail parties and many of our friends are now following our lead and stocking their home bars. I absolutely relish our cocktail hour! I love the glamour of the cocktail and if you are moving into the dinosaur section of the museum, I will glady go as well! One of the many things that I do love most about NOLA is the fact that there are many mixologists who are keeping the art of the cocktail alive and well to my generation. Kudos to them for keeping the mystique of the cocktail alive and well.

                  1. re: ScarlettNola

                    Second for Napoleon House.

                    When my wife and I visit, I try Saz's at almost all the places we stop. There have been a WIDE array of cocktails in my glass, let me tell you.

                    Also, a nod to the bar at Brigtsen's for their Saz. The hand-chipped ice chip floating in my, otherwise neat, cocktail was a classy touch to a very well-made concoction.

                    ScarlettNola, as to another "vintage" cocktail, see if anyone can make you an "Aviation". They need marachino liquer (Luxardo) so a nice Italian restaurant is a good bet.

                    1. re: Monch

                      If I only had maraschino liqueur, I could make one right now! There was a recipe in my Savoy Cocktail Book which calls for gin, marachino liqueur, lemon juice and creme de violette. Thanks for the introduction and I can't wait to try this!

                      1. re: ScarlettNola


                        I've not heard of the creme de violette component before.

                        Can I impose upon you for the recipe that uses that product?

                        1. re: Monch

                          Absolutely! 2 oz gin, 1/2 oz of freshly squeezed lemon juice, 2 tsps marachino liqueur, 1 tsp creme de violette. Shake w ice, strain into a cocktail glass and serve with a cherry. I purchased my creme de violette from a large distributor out of California because it is difficult to find in the states. It is around 28.00 for 750 mL bottle. I adore it and have made some wonderful cocktails using just a touch. Thanks again for introducing me to the Aviation cocktail. Now I will start on my quest to find the maraschino liqueur and to enjoy my first Aviation!

                          1. re: ScarlettNola


                            I also found:

                            And I think the "Attention" sounds good.

                            I have a very nice liquor store a block from the office. I'm off to see if they have the creme de violette!

                            Thanks very, VERY much.

                            1. re: Monch

                              That looks awesome! You will have to let me know how it is or if you come up with any more cocktails in the future. Thanks again!