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Sazerac Cocktail Recipe [moved from New Orleans]

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Gizmo56 May 1, 2012 11:37 AM

I love the Sazerac cocktail. At one point, I embarked upon a project to experiment with all the variables, and at length I eventually came up with a formulation that I could not surpass. Following up on an exchange that took place with BrooksNYC on another thread, I thought I'd share my recipe with the hope that others might also share their own.

THE GIZMO SAZERAC:

In advance, prepare a simple syrup. I get the best result in Sazeracs using Turbinado sugar in the simple syrup. The syrup can be stored for several days in a glass jelly jar in the refrigerator.

Also in advance, place an old fashioned glass in the freezer to chill. The thicker the bottom of the glass, the better (to retain the chill).

Begin the preparation of the cocktail by placing a small amount of Lucid absinthe in the chilled glass. Roll the glass to coat the interior and discard any excess that remains.

Place 1/2 teaspoon of the simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add four or five dashes of Peychaud's Bitters. Add two ounces of Bulleit 95 Rye, and 1/2 ounce of Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye. Fill the shaker halfway with ice cubes. Stir (don't shake) for 20 seconds or so, until thoroughly chilled. Strain into the chilled glass that has been rinsed in absinthe.

Using a fresh round lemon, cut a twist over the glass. Ideally you will get a tiny drop of lemon oil to fall and hit the surface of the cocktail. Drape the twist over the rim as garnish.

Enjoy!

Variations:

To take this cocktail all the way back to the original 19th Century mix of ingredients, use 2 1/2 oz of cognac in place of the rye. I favor Hennessey "Privilege" VSOP for the brandy version. Overall, I prefer the more modern rye version, but the occasional historic brandy version makes a tasty change of pace.

For the rye version, an alternative that is surprisingly good (and more economical): subsitute one ounce of Old Overholt plus one ounce of Bulleit, in place of the two ounces of Bulleit.

Comments:

In my experiments, I found that every variable makes a big difference to the end result. I don't like a Sazerac to have cloying sweetness, so I use less sugar than most recipes call for. In my opinion, there is an inherent sweetness in the absinthe that is almost enough on its own.

I have tried Herbsaint (both the modern and vintage styles) in place of absinthe, and it is very good, but I think that absinthe has better flavor and the correct heavier viscosity to cling to the glass. Lucid has the best flavor of many brands that I have tried. Pacifique is a somewhat distant second.

I tried many of the small batch ryes as well as the mainstays. Bulleit 95 Rye has a smooth finish with a nice "fruity" depth, and the uncut/unfiltered Thomas H. Handy adds the right note of complexity and smokiness (plus added "kick," as the uncut whiskey tends to be very high proof). The Handy is expensive, but a little goes a long way in this recipe, since I use one part Handy to four parts Bulleit 95.

Getting the little drop of lemon oil to hit the surface of the cocktail makes for a wonderful aroma as you bring the glass up to taste. A very fresh unblemished round lemon has the best chance of yielding the desired result.

If you make Sazeracs at home, I hope you'll share your secrets. If you have a favorite bar in New Orleans for Sazeracs, I hope you'll let us know what makes their Sazerac the best in town.

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  1. speyerer RE: Gizmo56 May 1, 2012 04:03 PM

    For the "Best Sazerac in NOLA" try:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/607253

    1 Reply
    1. re: speyerer
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      Gizmo56 RE: speyerer May 1, 2012 04:13 PM

      Thanks for the link, I enjoyed reading that thread very much. I was happy to see that others agree that modern Sazeracs are too often made overly sweet.

    2. b
      BrooksNYC RE: Gizmo56 May 1, 2012 08:29 PM

      A round of applause for the most exquisitely calibrated Sazerac in the history of the universe! You certainly won't find better in New Orleans, or anywhere else, I'll wager. Wow! Thanks for sharing this wonder with us, Gizmo. Can't wait to try it.

      RE: The original 19th century version....

      I ducked into Tujaque's one afternoon, and asked Paul, the bartender, if he'd make me a Sazerac with cognac, à la the original.

      "You like 'em with cognac?" he asked.
      "I don't know," I said. "This is a first."
      "You'll like the rye version better," he said, "and to prove it to you, I'm going to make you one of each. That way, you can 'compare and contrast', as they say in scientific circles."

      I'm a sap for tradition and was fired up to love the 19th-century recipe — how could the original not be a revelation? But Paul was right about me. I preferred the Sazerac made with rye. (Mind you, I was more than happy to compare and contrast until I'd finished both versions.)

      Thanks again for the recipe, Gizmo.

      7 Replies
      1. re: BrooksNYC
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        Gizmo56 RE: BrooksNYC May 1, 2012 08:47 PM

        Yes, I am a traditionalist as well. But I think when the Cognac became unavailable and they tried Rye as a substitute, that was one of the happiest accidents in the history of cocktails. Necessity was the mother of invention.

        Thank you for your very kind words about my recipe, Brooks.

        1. re: BrooksNYC
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          AlkieGourmand RE: BrooksNYC May 1, 2012 10:22 PM

          No doubt.

          1. re: BrooksNYC
            davis_sq_pro RE: BrooksNYC May 2, 2012 07:21 AM

            Agreed that a straight cognac version comes up a bit short. But I'm rather fond of a 50:50 mix of cognac and rye. (Ferrand 1840 + WT 101 works nicely in my opinion.)

            On a more theatrical note: Has anyone else messed around with trying to produce a Peychaud's candy floss? The idea I had was to fill the final glass with the floss, then dump a stirred mixture of spirit and a few drops of absinthe on top. The floss instantly dissolves, and it's a really cool effect. Only problem is that both the color and flavor of the Peychaud's is lost during the candy making process.

            The attached image is from my most recent experiment, in which I combined one fluid ounce of Peychaud's with 10 teaspoons of sugar, dehydrated the mixture using the microwave, then put the resultant crystals through the cotton candy maker. The crystals were bright red and very flavorful. The cotton candy, very light pink at best, and just sweet.

            Finally, I should note that I'm using a $30 cotton candy maker found in the toy department at Target, so perhaps my equipment isn't QUITE up to par...

             
            1. re: davis_sq_pro
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              Gizmo56 RE: davis_sq_pro May 2, 2012 10:41 AM

              The idea of using both brandy and rye together never occurred to me. I may have to try that this evening.

              As for the theatrical note, Wow! I salute your adventurism. Very interesting that the color and flavor of the bitters get lost along the way.....

              1. re: davis_sq_pro
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                johncb RE: davis_sq_pro May 2, 2012 01:50 PM

                I haven't tried to make Peychaud's cotton candy, but I have made Angostura-flavored cotton candy and used it to make an old Fashioned (put the candy in the glass and pour the (stirred with ice to chill and strained) spirits over it. It was kind of fun and a bit theatrical, and I could see doing it again for a dinner party, although I would increase the concentration of bitters (as you note, it can get lost when you spin the floss). I also have used French candy floss flavorings to make kir royale cocktails -- in France, you can get cassis flavoring for your barbe-a-papa (in fact, you can get a lot of exotic flavorings there).

                Perhaps you were inspired by Camper English's dehydration experiments over at Alcademics? I just haven't had the time and energy to reproduce his dehydration techniques.

              2. re: BrooksNYC
                BillB656 RE: BrooksNYC May 2, 2012 08:07 AM

                Paul Gustings at Tujague's is quite a bartender. He made me the best Ramos Gin Fizz I've ever had.

                1. re: BillB656
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                  Gizmo56 RE: BillB656 May 2, 2012 10:37 AM

                  I'll be visiting NOLA this summer and intend to visit the bar at Tujague's. I shall hope that Mr. Gustings will be on duty.

              3. b
                BrooksNYC RE: Gizmo56 May 1, 2012 08:41 PM

                P.S. Is your simple syrup 1:1?

                Cocktail alchemy is fascinating. On its own (i.e. in a classic absinthe drip) I think Pacifique is the superior absinthe. But obviously Lucid works better in a Sazerac. Have you experimented with other absinthes?

                17 Replies
                1. re: BrooksNYC
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                  Gizmo56 RE: BrooksNYC May 1, 2012 08:57 PM

                  Yes...1:1.

                  I tried more absinthes than I can recall. My Sazerac project was almost pathologically obsessive. I was somewhat surprised how many absinthe labels are out there these days. The was another brand, from France, that was a strong contender. I am drawing a blank on the name right now, but if I think of it later on I'll pass it along.

                  I do like the Pacifique very much as well. I think Lucid's method involve working with whole herbs whereas many other labels use extracts, and perhaps that has something to do with how well the flavor comes across in a Sazerac (in my opinion at least).

                  1. re: Gizmo56
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                    BrooksNYC RE: Gizmo56 May 1, 2012 09:35 PM

                    It's a testament to how far absinthe has come since its rebirth that most good absinthes nowadays (including Pacifique) use whole herbs. But choosing the right absinthe for a cocktail requires taste and artistry. I doff my hat to your pathological obsession!

                    I got interested in absinthe about nine years ago, when decent absinthes could be counted on the fingers of one stump. Nowadays, there are so many good or great ones, I've lost count.

                    If you ever find yourself in NYC, we'll head over to Maison Premiere in Williamsburg. Check out the absinthe menu:

                    http://maisonpremiere.com/images/Absi...

                    1. re: BrooksNYC
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                      Gizmo56 RE: BrooksNYC May 1, 2012 10:25 PM

                      I used to be in Manhattan several times a year on business, nowadays not so much, but I still love visiting NYC, and would be delighted to join you on an expedition to Maison Premiere one day. The link you provided is certainly alluring.

                      Thanks for letting me know that Pacifique (and most others) also now use whole herbs. So why the Lucid seems to have an edge (to my taste) in the Sazerac flavor combo will remain mysterious. I wish I could give the nod to Pacifique instead, as their craft distillery is located less than an hour away from me. I always have a bottle in my cabinet.

                      I am a fan of absinthe...my initial discovery was about five years ago, just after the science had begun to debunk the misconceptions and availability was on the uptick. For some reason it calls to me during the winter more than during any other time of year (when there is snow on the ground, I get the craving.), and (as with Sazeracs) I don't like it as sweet as the traditional drip preparation. In fact, I can be quite happy with adding the water with no sugar cube involved at all.

                      1. re: Gizmo56
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                        alphanumeric RE: Gizmo56 May 1, 2012 11:12 PM

                        I appreciate the level of craft and passion going on in this thread. I'm glad to see how much people care.

                        I look forward to going home in a month's time and using my Thomas H. Handy and Pacifique to mix one of these. In lieu of Bulleit, I've only got Old Overholt, although I'll probably grab either Templeton (also LDI) or Rittenhouse or both once I get back. Got to stock up before they disappear on me.

                        1. re: alphanumeric
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                          ncyankee101 RE: alphanumeric May 1, 2012 11:20 PM

                          Speaking of disappearing rye - has anyone noticed that the sazerac 6 yr is becoming rare and creeping up in price?

                          I used to be able to find it in several online retailers for $26, now I don't see it in stock anywhere and the ones who even show it as inventory run $30-36.

                          1. re: ncyankee101
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                            Gizmo56 RE: ncyankee101 May 2, 2012 12:20 AM

                            YES.

                            The six year seems to evaporate in the retail market like a mirage lately.

                            1. re: ncyankee101
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                              zin1953 RE: ncyankee101 May 3, 2012 07:14 AM

                              >>> Speaking of disappearing rye - has anyone noticed that the sazerac 6 yr is becoming rare and creeping up in price? <<<

                              Sadly, yes . . .

                            2. re: alphanumeric
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                              Gizmo56 RE: alphanumeric May 2, 2012 12:18 AM

                              Those are both strong alternatives if you can't lay hands on Bulleit 95 Rye for my recipe.

                              Another good understudy is (rî)¹ (despite the too-clever name). See: http://www.drinkhacker.com/2008/11/10...

                              /Gizmo

                              1. re: Gizmo56
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                                ncyankee101 RE: Gizmo56 May 2, 2012 12:31 AM

                                Have you tried Wild Turkey in your recipe? It's my favorite mixer by a small margin over Ritt 100 (though somewhat more expensive) although apparently the 101 proof version is going to be very hard to find as they stretch their supplies by selling an 81 proof version.

                                1. re: ncyankee101
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                                  Gizmo56 RE: ncyankee101 May 2, 2012 01:21 AM

                                  Interesting. No, I had not included Wild Turkey in my long trial, but definitely will audition it soon.

                                  Part of the fun of the exercise (which I now miss) was enjoying a Sazerac almost every night, with a different flavor combination each time, And the occasional ~second~ cocktail in order to resolve an A/B comparison.

                                  Hard work, but somebody's got to do it, right? : )

                                  1. re: Gizmo56
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                                    ncyankee101 RE: Gizmo56 May 2, 2012 01:37 AM

                                    The wild turkey has the most rye spice of any rye I have had except the handy - these would be old overholt, sazerac 6 yr, Bulleit, and rittenhouse 100. I actually like it a lot more than the Ritt 100, just think it has more and better flavor - but at my usual price of $15 for the Ritt vs $22-24 for the WT I find the Ritt a better value. I did get some WT for $18 on sale in PA a couple months back, wish I had gotten more, if I had known they were going to scale in the 81 proof version and cut back on the 101 I would have loaded the boat.

                                    IMO the Bulleit and saz 6 are excellent sippers, but for the real rye kick Wild turkey is the one to go to, at least the 101 proof version. You might even find you don't need the helping Handy to give the Bulleit that extra oomph. Many have said the Bulleit Bourbon actually is spicier than the rye, though I have never tried them side by side - I have an unopened bottle of the Bourbon, I really should do that sometime.

                                    Next on my list to try are the Russell's reserves, both the bourbon and the rye.

                                    1. re: ncyankee101
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                                      Gizmo56 RE: ncyankee101 May 2, 2012 10:36 AM

                                      I am very fond of the Bulleit Bourbon, but I am not sure I would describe it as more spicey than the Bulleit Rye. It has the characteristic Bulleit smoothness, and bourbon sweetness, for sure.

                                      Your pricing information is interesting to me. Here in my state we are currently in the midst of a transition. We have had a state-run liquor monopoly, which is coming to an end on May 31, after which retail liquor will be privatized for the first time. It is difficult to predict what the change will mean for selection and pricing.

                                      Licenses to operate the old state liquor stores were auctioned off, but other retail licenses will not be allowed for any store with less than 20,000 square feet (Costco and the large grocery chains were behind this). The state liquor stores were actually pretty good at including small batch and craft products, and I fear that variety in our selection will be diminished when Costco and Safeway take control of the market.

                                      1. re: Gizmo56
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                                        ncyankee101 RE: Gizmo56 May 2, 2012 11:01 AM

                                        Sounds like you're in Washington state?

                                        1. re: ncyankee101
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                                          Gizmo56 RE: ncyankee101 May 2, 2012 11:16 AM

                                          Yes.

                                    2. re: Gizmo56
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                                      hazelhurst RE: Gizmo56 May 2, 2012 07:28 AM

                                      Many years ago the Sazerac Bar used Wild Turkey 101. I always told people, when showing them the basics, that a Wild Turkey Sazerac is just like any other EXCEPT for one additional step at the beginning. Before doing anything, take an empty box of kitchen matches, put your keys in them and mail them to yourself.

                                      1. re: hazelhurst
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                                        BrooksNYC RE: hazelhurst May 2, 2012 09:22 AM

                                        HA!

                                        1. re: hazelhurst
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                                          Gizmo56 RE: hazelhurst May 2, 2012 10:26 AM

                                          : )

                        2. EvergreenDan RE: Gizmo56 May 2, 2012 04:50 AM

                          You might enjoy Erik's month of Sazeracs on Savoy Stomp, starting here:
                          http://savoystomp.com/2010/02/01/saze...

                          I happen to have the 3 brands you suggest on hand, and since I generally find Sazeracs too sweet, I will try it again.

                          Grouppo Campari is rolling out Wild Turkey 81, so you may find Wild Turkey 101 very hard to come by for a while. It is excellent for mixing in complex cocktails (rather than the simple Sazerac).

                          Also, I think you'll find that you need more than 20 seconds of stirring to adequately chill and dilute your cocktail, unless you are stirring very vigorously (which defeats the purpose of stirring). 40 seconds seems about right.

                          --
                          www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: EvergreenDan
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                            Gizmo56 RE: EvergreenDan May 2, 2012 10:25 AM

                            I am enjoying that thread very much, Thanks for sharing. In retrospect i wish I had documented my own experiments in a fashion like that.

                            I use fairly large ice cubes, and live in a generally cool climate, so the approx 20 seconds works well enough for me. With the glass coming out of the freezer and able to keep the cocktail cold, I try to error on the side of stirring just long enough so as to not to dilute the concoction with melted ice. But what works best for you is best.

                            All of the discussion about Wild Turkey has me in the mood for fresh experiments....

                            1. re: Gizmo56
                              EvergreenDan RE: Gizmo56 May 2, 2012 03:00 PM

                              Stick an instant-read thermometer in the mixing glass. You'll be surprised. Large cubes require longer (or more vigorous) stirring because of their smaller surface area. Starting with very cold, dry (i.e. not wet) ice helps a great deal if excess dilution is a problem.

                              Another technique you might like is to use 2:1 or 1.5:1 simple syrup, made without heating. The extra sugar means that you can use less and still achieve the same sweetness, with less dilution. As a bonus, it lasts longer, especially if refrigerated. Yarm recommends adding a bit of high-proof vodka as a preservative, about 1:16 as I recall.

                              --
                              www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community.

                              1. re: EvergreenDan
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                                Gizmo56 RE: EvergreenDan May 2, 2012 03:25 PM

                                Interesting about cube size. I never use wet cubes. I do make a vigorous stir, both to chill and to thoroughly blend.

                                That's a good thought about making the simple syrup with a lower water content, even though with just half a teaspoon I don't think dilution is a problem in my current recipe. I tend to make fairly small amounts that I can use within a few days, and I keep it refrigerated in a tighly covered glass container. f I ever make a bigger batch of syrup for some reason, I will keep the vodka tip in mind.

                                Thanks!

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