The Sazerac is a cocktail that is steeped in controversy and shrouded in mystery. It’s deep, dark origins are allegedly guarded by the Illuminati. When researching symbols such as the all seeing eye and Baphomet (the goat god of the Knights of Templar) there are undeniable connections drawn between the Sazerac and ancient Satanic ritual. Sazerac is Masonic slang for “Satan’s whorish elixir” and was drank in copious amounts during secret ceremonies. These ceremonies gave rise to what we recognize today as the “modern speakeasy,” but that is an entirely different chapter of history.
For now we will stick to the truth, although I much prefer the conspiracy theory approach. That would make this age old Sazerac debate so much more worth having. In the meantime I guess we are stuck with a cocktail nerds and historians taking sides like the North and the South, only this battle doesn’t have nearly the same decisive outcome.
It all started in Bavaria circa 1760 with a group of international bankers….sorry. I can’t help myself.
So where did this mixed whiskey cocktail come from? New Orleans is where we will start, specifically at the Sazerac House Bar.
The History of the Sazerac
The bar was owned by Thomas H. Handy & Co. Handy was making bitters from a proprietary recipe he had purchased from A.A. Peychaud. Whiskey drinks had recently become the prefered spirit over brandy. Due to the largely French influenced culture of New Orleans, brandy had reigned supreme until the turn of the 20th century. The Improved Whiskey Cocktail had become a popular staple at most watering holes. The Improved Cocktail was called such because it was a modern variation of the Old Fashioned (which only became known as the Old Fashioned because of its more athletic and popular younger brother). At the Sazerac House, you could find possibly the best mixed whiskey drinks and Improved Cocktails. There’s was naturally referred to as the “Sazerac”. As with many cocktails there is a bit controversy over recipe. The debates are over the following: cognac or rye, simply Peychaud’s or Peychaud’s and angostura, and absinthe or maraschino.
How you make the best whiskey drink has now become a chose your own adventure novel. I will tell you what I learned to be true for me. After all, that is why you are here, right? While I do believe that arguments can be made for all variations of this lovely whiskey cocktail I am partial to this:
Sazerac Cocktail Ingredients
First, start by chilling a rocks glass. You can either chill the glass in the freezer or fill it with ice and let is sit while you mix the booze. Next, stir all the ingredients together with a copious amount of ice for about 15 seconds to ensure an even mixture but avoid over dilution. The next step intimidates some, but rest assured – you too can absinthe-rinse a glass. I am partial to a mist from an atomizer or the tried-and-true swirl and dump. Anything else to me leaves too much residual absinthe and as far as I’m concerned the absinthe is supposed to be mostly aroma rather than flavor. Either way, coat your glass with this delicious elixir.
Then strain your booze into your chilled, absinthe rinsed, ice free glass. Finally, with a vegetable peeler, get yourself a nice swath of lemon and express the essential oils on to the surface of the whiskey.
There ya have it. A Sazerac. One of the best whiskey drinks you could hope to be served. It showcases the spirit while adding a little jazz hands and still makes you take a step back and think about what the hell you are doing with your life.
Enjoy this drink with friends…but also enjoy it alone at a new watering hole where you can get some time and space to really take in its complexity. The secrets of this hallowed mixed whiskey drink cannot be fully explored here alone. I would encourage you to do some digging on your own and make a few variations to draw your own conclusions.
Just remember they are watching. They. Are. Always. Watching.