Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sazerac Solitaire

Friday night I finally made my way to Eat Street Social after a long day of Art-A-Whirl-ing in the muggy 90 degree heat of Northeast. I arrived, as is my wont, thirsty. After hearing from many sources that ESS' craft cocktail menu was a force to be reckoned with, I was not disappointed with my options.

While I am not opposed to any particular kinds of alcohol I definitely tend to immediately go for the whiskey cocktails. ESS' menu shares my proclivities and has four or five whiskey cocktails to choose from. My problem, then, was finding a whiskey cocktail that would at once be savory while still refreshing in the swampy 9 o'clock heat. What better, then, to fight off the sweaty bayou blues than the official cocktail of New Orleans?

The Sazerac, one of the oldest known cocktails, gets its name from the original type of brandy which was used in the cocktail, Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils. In 1838, a creole apothecary named Antoine Amedie Peychaud created a specific brand of toddy using Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils brandy and his family's own special bitters recipe. Fifty years later, the Sazerac was immensely popular in Louisiana and throughout the south, two notable changes happened to the official recipe, transforming it into the cocktail we drink today. First the base liquor was changed from brandy to Kentucky rye bourbon, giving the cocktail a slightly more aggressive and alcoholic flavor. Second, an absinthe (or similar anisette flavored liqueur, such as the New Orleans based Herbesainte) rinse of the glass gave the cocktail a slight licorice nose which, in my opinion, is what makes this drink so refreshing.

So what's the main idea behind a Sazerac, you may ask? There are several components to the drink, all of which are essential. The drink requires two glasses, one empty and one filled to the brim with ice. Set the glass of ice aside, I will even put the glass of ice in the freezer to get it nice and cold. Next, take a sugar cube (white sugar is just fine) and add several dashes of Peychaud's Bitters to the cube. Bitters bottles are usually outfitted with an inset pour regulator so just give it a good two or three shakes. Then crush the bitters soaked sugarcube, I usually use my muddler, but you should be able to use the back of a spoon to similar effect. Add 1 1/2 oz of rye whiskey on top of the bitters and crushed sugar, stir. Here's where it gets kind of tricky. If you've been keeping your other glass in the freezer, transfer the ice into the glass with the bourbon and bitters mixture and quickly coat the inside of the freezer glass with absinthe. The idea here is to make the cocktail cold without letting any of the ice actually melt into the drink, diluting the cocktail. I find that doing a quick swirl around the inside of the glass and pouring out the remaining absinthe (I like to save mine in a separate glass for later, but the point is you should only have a light coating of absinthe on the inside of your chilled glass) gives me enough time to give the cocktail a quick stir with a bar spoon, just one or two will suffice. Strain your mixture into the chilled, absinthe rinsed glass et voila! Sazerac time!

And here's the proportions:
1 1/2 oz rye bourbon
3 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
one sugar cube
1/2 oz absinthe

Just to get you in the mood for Sazeracs, some turn of the century Bechet:

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