The Sazerac is a New Orleans classic, named after the brand of cognac that was originally its main ingredient. It is a stiff, whiskey-heavy drink, known for having as much personality as the city of its origin. The original calls for whiskey or cognac, absinth, sugar, and bitters, but the complexity of the flavors allows plenty of room for experimentation. Gathered here are a few of those experiments that resulted in new and delicious ways to enjoy the Sazerac.
The Classic Sazerac
This is the recipe with no frills attached. If you want the original recipe, you can substitute the rye whiskey for cognac, or even mix about an ounce of rye and cognac and follow the rest of the recipe as written.
- 1 sugar cube or 1 teaspoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon Peychaud’s bitters
- 1/8 teaspoon Angostura bitters
- 2 oz. rye whiskey
- 2 teaspoons absinthe
- 1 lemon peel twist (for garnish)
First, muddle sugar and a splash of water in the bottom of a cocktail mixer. Add ice and rye whiskey along with the bitters and stir. Rinse an old-fashioned glass with absinthe. Strain the first mixture into the absinthe-rinsed glass. Garnish with a lemon twist and serve.
This recipe takes the Sazerac further south, to the tropics, substituting spiced rum for whiskey and adding Falernum. I’d also recommend a small paper umbrella and Hawaiian shirt, but I couldn’t bring myself to list them under the ingredients.
- 2 oz. Spiced Rum
- ½ oz. Velvet Falernum
- ½ oz. Absinthe
- 2 dashes Bittercube Trinity Bitters
- Orange twist (for garnish)
Stir the rum, Falernum, and bitters with ice and strain into an absinthe-rinsed old-fashioned glass. Garnish with an orange twist and serve.
This variation of the Sazerac does away with whiskey altogether, replacing it with sparkling white wine for a bubbly drink for the especially sophisticated. A dry champagne or sparkling white wine proves to be a surprisingly effective substitute for the whiskey.
- 1 sugar cube
- 3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
- ¾ oz. Absinthe
- 4 oz. Chilled Champagne
- Lemon twist (for garnish)
Drop a sugar cube in a champagne flute and then cover it with the bitters and absinthe. Top with chilled champagne and stir until the sugar is dissolved completely. Garnish with a lemon twist and serve.
The Cooper Union Cocktail
Although their nations of origin have proved historically incompatible, the Cooper Union’s mix of Scotch and Irish whiskey provide a sturdy background for this creative variation of the Sazerac. The scotch is used to rinse the glass instead of a Sazerac’s absinthe. Laphroaig 10-year Scotch works especially well, but any especially smoky scotch will work. If you’re at a loss for whiskey, Redbreast Irish Whiskey works well.
- 2 oz. Irish Whiskey
- ½ oz St. Germain Elderflower liqueur
- 1 dash orange bitters
- Scotch (to rinse glass)
- 1 lemon peel
First rinse a double rocks glass with scotch. Add the Irish whiskey, St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, and bitters to a cocktail mixer and stir with ice until chilled. Strain into the rocks glass and express a lemon peel over the rim. Serve without garnish.
Always Summer Sazerac
This fresh twist on the Sazerac is a (slightly) lighter take on the usually heavy drink. Aromatic Lavender bitters take the place of the absinthe rinse and Old Overholt Rye Whiskey, with its sweet honey flavors, is the recommended spirit.
- 2 oz rye whiskey
- ½ oz Creme de Cassis
- Lavender bitters
- Lemon twist (for garnish)
Stir the whiskey and Crème de Cassis in a cocktail mixer with ice. Strain into a rocks glass rinsed with Lavender bitters. Express the lemon twist over the rim of the glass and then use it for garnish.
The Inside Job
The Inside Job is the sweeter cousin of the Sazerac, keeping the Absinthe, but using bourbon whiskey and adding simple syrup and Maraschino Liqueur for good measure.
- 2 oz. Bourbon
- ¼ oz. Maraschino Liqueur
- ½ oz. simple syrup
- 1 dash Angostura Bitters
- 1 dash Absinthe
- Cherry and orange slice (for garnish)
First, stir together the bourbon, Maraschino Liqueur, simple syrup, and bitters with ice in a cocktail mixer until chilled. Then, strain into a rocks glass that has been rinsed with absinthe. Garnish with a cherry and orange slice and serve.
Best Whiskies for a Sazerac
With it’s complicated and potent flavor palette, it can be hard to find the right whiskey for a good Sazerac. This problem becomes even more complicated when you consider that you might not want to mix a decades old bottle that cost multiple mortgages. To save you the trouble, we’ve come up with the best, and most priceworthy whiskies to mix into your Sazerac.
Sazerac 6-Year Rye
Well, of course, the bottle named after the cocktail would work well. Buffalo Trace made my job easy when they came out with the Sazerac 6-year Rye. It’s a whiskey that’s smooth enough to play nice with potent flavors of the cocktail, but spicy enough to hold its own. In addition to this, the Sazerac 6-Year is smooth enough to sip on its own. You’d think that a whiskey this specialized would come with a hefty price tag, but at $38 a bottle, it’s a steal.
Rittenhouse Rye 100 Proof
For those who want a Sazerac with a kick, the Rittenhouse Rye 100 Proof is an especially boozy whiskey, that’s perfect for a Sazerac. The potency of the Rittenhouse Rye is offset by sweet brown sugar and vanilla flavors and, with a 51% rye mash, it doesn’t forget about the spice. You can find Rittenhouse Rye 100 proof for around $30 a bottle.
Old Overholt Rye
Old Overholt is rumored to be America’s oldest brand of whiskey and almost as infamous as the gunslingers who drank it (it was said to be Doc Holiday’s drink of choice). The drink’s smoothness allows the other flavors of a Sazerac to shine, while Old Overholt adds background flavors of white pepper, cloves, vanilla. You can pick up this whiskey at any liquor store, usually for under $20 a bottle.