September 21, 2008

The Sazarac Cocktail - A Taste of New Orleans

1 1/2 oz Old Overholt Rye Whisky
1 Tbs Herbsaint Liqueur
3-4 Dashs Peychaud's Bitters
1 Tsp Simple Syrup
1 Lemon peel (Generous twist)

Fill a generous rocks glass with ice to chill the glass. Dump the ice after the glass is well chilled. Add the Tablespoon of Herbsaint to the glass and swirl completely around the glass to coat the bottom and sides. Pour out the excess Herbsainte. In a cocktail shaker, add 1 teaspoon of simple syrup, 1 jigger of Old Overholt rye whiskey, and 3 generous dashes of Peychaud's bitters. you can substitute Angostura bitters as if it is all you can find, but Peychaud bitters is traditional.

Stir the Rye mixture with the ice until well chilled. Do not shake with the ice as it will dilute your cocktail. Strain into the Herbsaint-coated cocktail glass. Twist a lemon peel over the drink to release the essential oil in the peel. Drop the peel in the glass and serve.

This is an outstanding cocktail. You should approach it reverently. Take the time to appreciate the beautiful perfume that this blend of ingredients exudes. It smells delicious. Anise, spice and a complex floral component from the Herbsaint create an aroma that is heavenly.

At first sip you will feel the warm burn of the rye, but then layers and layers of flavor. There is the sweet flavor of honey and spice, a taste of the bitters balanced perfectly by the sweetness of the simple syrup. The lemon twist is the icing on the cake adding both a flavor and aroma component. It is amazing how much the Herbsaint adds to this cocktail. Although the glass is only coated with this elixir, the personality of this cocktail can be attributed to its presence.

It is important that this cocktail be served without ice. The personality of the drink changes as the cocktail warms. Savor it, sip it, but drink it slowly. You will be rewarded for your patience.

Every bartender I spoke with in New Orleans insisted that a "real" Sazarac will be made with Old Overholt Rye. Old Overholt is cheap, readily available and a staple at most New Orleans restaurants and bars. Herbsaint is also easy to find in New Orleans, but a bit more difficult in other parts of the country. I assure you it is worth the time to find some, or have some shipped for you home bar. I have included links at the bottom of this review if you would like to order all of the ingredients by mail. If you are in a pinch, you can substitute Pernod for the Herbsaint and cognac for the rye.

The best Sazarac I had in New Orleans was prepared at Herbsaint Restaurant on St Charles Avenue. There will be those that will disagree, but that it the beauty of reviewing. It provides a forum for discussion. Do you have a favorite bar or restaurant to enjoy this New Orleans staple? Share it with me in the comments. I am already starting a list of places to visit for my next trip to the Crescent City.

Here are some essential links relating to my experience:

"Herbsainte Restaurant".
"Old Overholt Rye Whisky".
"Peychaud's Bitters".
"Herbsainte Liqueur".

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