It’s back to the classics this week, with an old standard from New Orleans. The Sazerac has been around since the mid-19th century, and originated as a cognac drink. Not too long after, the spirit changed to whisky when cognac became difficult to obtain after the outbreak of phylloxera, a vine-eating parasite, swept through France’s vineyards. As with many of these classic cocktails, there’s quite a bit of debate about how exactly to make it: should you add Angostura bitters along with the Peychaud’s? Should you use absinthe, or Herbsaint, or Pernod? Should you leave the absinthe in the glass, or tip it out? Is it ever acceptable to drop the lemon peel in the drink? As usual, since I’m just learning, I’ve stuck to the most traditional version I can find: no Angostura, yes absinthe, lemon peel firmly outside the drink.
Something about the combination of rye, medicinal Peychaud’s and strong absinthe sounds pretty odd on paper, but the finished product is delightful. Absinthe so easily overpowers other spirits, but here the rinse on the glass provides a gentle hint of anise that just glides into the sweet but fiery taste of the rye. It’s like a long evening sitting on a porch, with the distinct possibility of that evening turning into a party.
2 oz rye whisky
4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp absinthe
1 tsp water
Mix the sugar and bitters in a mixing glass until the sugar dissolves. Add whisky to the mix, then ice, and stir well to chill.
In your (chilled) cocktail glass, swill the absinthe around until the inside of the glass is coated, then dump it out.
Strain the chilled cocktail into the coated glass. Twist a bit of lemon peel over the glass, then discard.