Aspen Times Weekly Libation: The Sazerac

by Kelly J. Hayes
Classic sazerac cocktail on wooden table
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto


In 2008, the august body of the Louisiana Legislature proclaimed the Sazerac as New Orleans’ official cocktail. Here is the International Bartenders Association’s official recipe:

5 cl Cognac

1 cl Absinthe

One sugar cube

Two dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

Rinse a chilled old-fashioned glass with the Absinthe, add crushed ice and set it aside. Stir the remaining ingredients over ice and set it aside. Discard the ice and any excess Absinthe from the prepared glass, and strain the drink into the glass. Add the lemon peel for garnish.

If there is a cocktail that is indelibly tied to the city of New Orleans it would be the Sazerac. This iceless creation of pure alcohols with a hint of sugar was originally concocted in the 1850s and, at the time, was made with Cognac. Not just any Cognac, but a specific brand of Cognac called Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils. Hence the moniker. Alas, while purists may still use the French brandy in their drinks, the majority of Sazeracs poured in the city have replaced it with Rye Whiskey — a change that came about due to a combination of the decline in French wine production because of phylloxera and growth in production of American Rye. It is the rinse of Absinthe and the Peychaud Bitters that turn simple Cognac, or brandy, into a bracingly cool cocktail. Highly charged and just a touch sweet with a quick hit of lemon on the nose, a good Sazerac can make any day a better day.