By Warren Bobrow
The Sazerac is a classic cocktail that somehow finds its way into my heart year after year. Perhaps the ingredients have something to do with it. Certainly the time I've spent in New Orleans makes me want to seek out perfectly made Sazerac cocktails in the most unlikely places. It's easier to order a Sazerac in an airport bar, than say a Ramos Gin Fizz. You are more likely to be able to get a decent cocktail instead of a blank stare.
What goes into a Sazerac Cocktail? Well it depends on the location of your drink. If you order a Sazerac at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, I can just about guarantee that the drink will have Peychaud's Bitters, Rye Whiskey, some type of Absinthe like Herbsaint, and of course an orange zest.
You can mix this drink up a bit by using different ingredients in the same vein. I ordered a Sazerac in Paris last fall with the idea that the French wouldn't know what I was talking about. How wrong could I have been? The bar not only knew how to craft a Sazerac, but they used Chartreuse instead of Absinthe in the glass wash. Rye whiskey of course was used, and Pechaud's Bitters graced the glass along with a beautifully twisted length of orange. Of course the honor of drinking a perfectly gorgeous American style cocktail in Paris comes with a price (about 45 dollars) but you can craft this drink at home for much, much less. Of course, ordering an American style drink in Paris is worthwhile because of the taste of the place. There is a certain terroir to Paris and drinking simple cocktails is all part of the experience of being there.
I took this knowledge of using Chartreuse in my Sazerac cocktail back home with me where it percolated for a few months in my subconscious. Chartreuse VEP graces my bar and although very expensive for a mixed drink, I do like it in a snifter after a good meal as a digestive. But I digress. You can make a Sazerac with regular Chartreuse and I recommend using the less powerful yellow variety, but the green one will work in a pinch. Whatever Chartreuse you use, make sure it's the real thing. This is no time to skimp on good ingredients.
The ice I use to mix my Sazerac is equally important. If it were up to me I'd carry a travel-sized pitcher from Mavea to filter all my water on trips abroad or here in the States. But I don't always have that luxury. It's possible to get bottled water for your ice, but good luck doing that in a foreign country. Ice is a most difficult beast to harness in a strange land so chose your cubes carefully if possible.
Dad's Hat in Bristol, Pennsylvania is crafting some gorgeous American Rye Whiskey. I prefer the charred barrel, aged variety to the "white dog" un-aged rye in my cocktails, but if there's one thing I recommend, it's experimentation. You should do any mixology at home with friends around so you can compare your results.
Sweet Vermouth is equally important in my recipe. Sure this is not what the original recipe calls for. Far from, but I'm very fond of Boissiere Sweet Vermouth in my Sazerac, even if it isn't the classic preparation.
What is mixology all about anyhow? I think that it is modern day alchemy.
I am most fond of Peychaud's Bitters, but in a pinch, the Bitter Truth Creole Bitters work just fine along with some of the Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters (in place of the Angostura Bitters). Whatever your decision is, The Bitter Truth Bitters are available at DrinkUpNY.
The Smashed Sazerac is my unique take on this classic cocktail. Heavily influenced by the classic Sazerac, I made mine with ingredients that speak clearly of the romance and beauty of Paris, with a twist that can only be Chartreuse.
The Smashed Sazerac
(For two people)
• 4 oz. Dad's Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey
• 2 oz. Boissiere Sweet Vermouth
• 2 oz. Chartreuse Green or Yellow (your choice)
• The Bitter Truth Creole Bitters
• The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Bitters
• Ice made with your Mavea "Inspired Water" pitcher - Ice is IMPORTANT!
1. Fill two Old Fashioned glasses with regular ice and wash each glass with 1 oz. of the Chartreuse yellow or green. Set aside to chill. After the glasses are thoroughly chilled, pour this liquid into your mouth - no need to waste good spirits!
2. To a mixing vessel, add two handfuls of Mavea "inspired water" ice.
3. Add the Rye and the Sweet Vermouth.
4. Add 2 shakes each of the Creole and Jerry Thomas Bitters.
5. Stir briskly to mix.
6. Add a couple of orange zests and continue to mix.
7. Strain into the pre-chilled Old Fashioned glasses.
8. Garnish with a long orange zest.
9. Drink to the Carousel Bar!
Cheers from DrinkUpNY!
Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.