sazerac copy

Recipe: Sazerac (serves one)

  • 1.5 oz. rye
  • 2 dashes (= 1/4 tsp.) Peychaud’s bitters
  • 1 dash (= 1/8 tsp.) Angostura bitters
  • 1 barspoon absinthe or Pernod
  • 1 tsp. ultra-fine sugar
  • 1 tsp. water
  • lemon peel

Coat a cocktail glass with absinthe or Pernod, discard excess, and place glass in refrigerator to chill. In a cocktail shaker, stir together the water and sugar, then add ice, rye, and bitters. Stir. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon peel.

We were visiting some friends recently and they asked if we wanted to mix a round of cocktails, knowing that we love making drinks. We looked in their liquor cabinet and noticed a bottle of something we didn’t have at home: the French liqueur Pernod. That inspired us to make Sazeracs. The recipe we used there called for the Pernod to be mixed into the drink like the bitters. When we got home, we bought our own bottle so we could experiment more. We ended up preferring this recipe, where the Pernod is just used to coat the glass.

The creation of the Sazerac dates back to the 19th century in New Orleans. Its evolution is tied to two upheavals in the world of alcoholic drinks. First, it was originally made with Sazerac brand Cognac (hence the name). Bartenders switched to rye in the 1870’s when the phylloxera insect destroyed French vineyards and made Cognac hard to obtain. The recipe changed again around 1912, when many countries banned absinthe due to fears that it caused insane behavior. Pernod, a liqueur with a similar licoricey flavor, became a common replacement. Although absinthe is now legal again, many Sazerac recipes still call for Pernod.

Pernod is an example of a pastis, a liqueur that is flavored with anise and licorice root but has less alcohol than absinthe. Like absinthe, pastis becomes cloudy when diluted with water: it contains oils that are soluble only in liquids of over 30% alcohol content, so when the alcohol level drops, the drink becomes a more opaque mixture. Pernod has a very strong licorice flavor; one of us hates it on its own, but loves the Sazerac.


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