The Dos and Donts of Sazeracs

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The Sazerac has been making a big comeback over the past year. It’s popping up on cocktails menus, bartenders are recommending them to their customers, and it’s even being suggested as an official state drink.

But after being served a warm shot of rye with a drop of Peychaud’s last week at a restaurant here in Eugene, and watching as Paul choked down what looked like a foamy rye Cosmopolitan this weekend, I figured that some pointers might be helpful.

The Sazerac is one of the oldest cocktails in the modern repertoire, but don’t let its unassuming presentation fool you: it is a complex drink that requires attention to detail, proper technique and the right proportions to fully reveal its brilliance.

Do use a single dash of Angostura bitters in your Sazeracs. You’ll be surprised how much this opens up the flavors. While it may enrage some purists, you can always counter with, “If it was good enough for Thomas Handy, it’s good enough for me.”

Do not use orange bitters in a Sazerac. I’ve seen this done and I can’t possibly understand the rationale.

Do stir the drink gently with ice.

Do not shake your Sazerac. Remember, shaking a clear drink is like shaking a baby: first there’s going to be a lot of foam, and then you’ll be staring death in the face.

Do not serve a Sazerac on the rocks.

Do not serve a Sazerac in a cocktail glass.

Do serve your Sazerac neat, in a rocks glass that is large enough to accommodate some breathing room. Your drink will thank you as you swirl it in the glass.

Do not drink your Sazerac in one gulp. It might look like a shot, but someone hopefully put a lot of work into that drink. Sip it, you monkey.

Do not use bourbon in a Sazerac. Only the spiciness of a good rye whiskey will do. Cognac is also acceptable if you’re trying to be historically accurate.

Do use this recipe to make your Sazeracs.

Do squeeze a nice, wide lemon peel over the drink. The oils from the lemon are a crucial component to the cocktail.

Do not drop the lemon peel in the drink. Throw it away after you’ve expressed all the oil.

Do watch this video of Chris McMillian making what looks to me like the perfect Sazerac. Repeat as necessary:

Do not use Pernod to rinse the glass, if you can avoid it. Pernod’s sweetness is going to compete with the sugar in the drink.

Do use Herbsaint, if you can find it, or – even better – a proper absinthe. The higher proof and dryness will make perfect sense to you once you try it.

Do muddle a sugar cube soaked in bitters and a splash of water to sweeten the drink.

Do not let anyone give you grief for using syrup in its place. There is no difference between a fully-dissolved sugar cube and simple syrup.

Do send an email to Senator Edwin Murray at murraye [at] asking him to approve Senate Bill No. 6, which will designate the Sazerac as the official state cocktail of Louisiana.


67 Replies to “The Dos and Donts of Sazeracs”

  • Andrew says:

    Stumbled on this drink a couple of Mardi Gras ago looking for something new. Been trying to perfect my home recipe.

    I learned a couple nuances worth trying at the Whiskey Library in Portland last month:

    1) Use a spray bottle to mist the glass with absinthe – it coats well and the anise aroma is a great prelude to the actual drink.

    2) Zest a little lemon peel into the drink – it adds a little bitterness without the clunky peel.

    3) Rub some more peel around the rim and discard – It gets that aroma right to up to your nose to complement the anise and rye.

    I’ve been using Sazerac and Lucid lately but I really enjoy Bulleit in this drink – I’ll try a different absinthe when I run out in about 5 years…

  • Robert LaBree says:

    While I’m a big fan of Angostura, I think this one calls for Peychaud’s instead.

  • Paul Pinot says:

    These are such a comical suggestions as if they were some sort of biblical Canon to making the drink. The reality is, you can use whatever you have on hand to make the drink the way you like. Do: whatever you want. Don’t: assume some blogger with a know-it-all attitude has every answer under the sun.

    No matter the opinion, saying it loud and proud doesn’t make it a fact. Perhaps that was lost on the poster.

  • Michael Wenham says:

    If i had wanted to use simple syrup instead of the sugar cube how much would be equivalent? Im assuming 2:1 syrup?
    Also reccomendations of a reasonably priced i
    Absinthe to use?

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