Enjoy “America’s First Cocktail” – and a shot of Louisiana history – when you sip a legendary Sazerac drink.
For a drink widely considered “America’s First Cocktail,” it’s no surprise the mighty Sazerac is bold, complex and sophisticated – special in every way. Even watching one being made is an “experience” not to be missed.
First, your bartender fills one glass with ice and muddles sugar and bitters together in another before adding rye whiskey. Then, the ice from the first glass is poured out and replaced with a rinse of absinthe or Herbsaint, which is dramatically swirled around to coat the inside of the glass. Finally, the rye mixture is poured into the coated glass and a lemon twist garnishes the top.
The results? Not only sublime, but also a perfect representation of Louisiana in a glass.
History of the Sazerac Cocktail
Considered the official drink of New Orleans, the Sazerac gets its name from the popular brand of Cognac named Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils that was first used to make the drink. It also featured two locally created ingredients in its mix – Peychaud’s bitters, invented around 1830 as a medicinal tonic by local Creole pharmacist Antoine Amédée Peychaud, and mystical Herbsaint, which was originally developed in 1934 as an anise-flavored absinthe substitute by J. Marion Legendre and Reginald Parker, who learned to make absinthe while in France during WWI. Since true absinthe was illegal in America, the duo created a liqueur with no wormwood (the substance banned here until 2007) which is still used today as the classic glass rinse before a Sazerac is served.
You can order one all over the city, but look for the 30+ places awarded the New Orleans Culinary and Culture Preservation Society’s “Seal of the Sazerac” for offering a true take on the original. Better yet, belly up to the illustrious bar bearing its name that also happens to boast an equally illustrious history – and USA Today’s designation as the country’s “#1 Best Hotel Bar” in 2019. As you step into The Roosevelt New Orleans hotel’s Sazerac Bar, an African walnut bar top borders a muraled wall and period décor creates an ambiance of timeless sophistication. Settle into a cozy banquette that feels like a warm hug and savor of taste of history.
“Sipping a Sazerac at The Sazerac Bar is like traveling through time,” describes bartender Rachel Shandersky. “The surroundings here transport you back to a different era of three-piece suits and fancy hats.” The hotel is a destination itself, featuring a lavish block-long lobby adorned with 90-year-old chandeliers, a piano belonging to the first African American to have sheet music published, and a 12-foot marble and bronze sculpted grand clock.
Additionally head to the new Sazerac House Museum for a chance to immerse yourself in the city’s cocktail culture and even taste some of the unique spirits that make up its signature drinks. (Samples are free to visitors over 21 and periodic tasting classes are offered.) The museum’s renovated building sits across tree-line Canal Street in the French Quarter. The first floor features a distillery where the Sazerac Company makes rye whiskey, the key ingredient in its namesake drink, plus three floors of exhibits open to the public.
Ingredients for Sazerac:
- 1 cube of sugar
- 1 ½ oz. Sazerac Rye Whiskey
- ¼ oz. Herbsaint
- 3 dashes of Peychaud's Bitters
- lemon peel, for garnish
Method of Preparation
- Fill one Old Fashioned glass with ice.
- In another Old Fashioned glass, muddle the sugar cube and bitters together until blended, then add the rye whiskey.
- Empty ice from the first glass, add Herbsaint to it and swirl it around to coat the sides of the glass. Pour out any excess Herbsaint that remains after swirling.
- Pour the rye/sugar/bitters mixture into the Herbsaint-coated glass and garnish with a lemon peel.
Recipe courtesy of The Roosevelt New Orleans.