Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thirsty Thursdays: Sazerac Edition

It seems like a century ago, but, yes, I spent some time in New Orleans last month. It was our first time in the city and, quite frankly, I fell in love. That we would eat and drink well was a given, what surprised me was my deep affection for the city itself - or, more precisely, for the area know as The French Quarter.

Winding my way along the Quarter's sun-baked streets, seeking the shelter of its lush green balconies, I felt at home. Something about the gentile decay, the almost-but-not-quite-falling-apart-ness of the city, spoke to me. Seduced by each new and more beautiful vista, I felt the city wrapping its warmth around me like the arms of a would be lover, pulling me in for a kiss. Strange reference perhaps, but there's a subtle underlying decadence to almost everything in the French Quarter, so the metaphor seems to fit ... and I fell willingly into those arms.

And, in truth, the seduction didn't take long. It began an hour after I arrived, with my first sip of a Sazerac at The Sazerac Bar in The Roosevelt Hotel.

The Sazerac enjoys a long and much fabled history. So fabled, in fact, that it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. Fortunately, for our purposes, to do so is unnecessary. I happen to like the more popular story best, so I'll recount it briefly for you here. In this version, the Sazerac was invented by Antoine Amadie Peychaud, a New Orleans based apothecary, in 1838. Mr. Peychaud mixed a quantity of cognac with his health tonic - the substance we now know as Peychaud's bitters - and a bit of water and sugar. By 1870 or so, the drink had gained in popularity and, due to the tastes of the times, the cognac was replaced with Rye.

Somewhere along the way, a splash of absinthe was added to rinse the glass and when absinthe became illegal, it was replaced by Herbsaint, a pastis made in New Orleans. Phew! Still with me? Good. There's certainly more to this story and if you Google, you can read all your heart desires. At the end of the day, there's only one thing you need to know: this drink is enchanting.

The Sazerac Cocktail:
  • 1 sugar cube
  • 1 1/2 ounces of rye whiskey
  • 1/4 ounce Herbsaint
  • 3 dashes of Peychaud's Bitters
  • strip of lemon peel
Pack an old fashioned glass with ice and reserve. In a second glass, combine the cube of sugar and 3 dashes of Peychaud's Bitter. Crush the sugar cube to dissolve, using a muddling tool or a bartender's spoon. Add the rye and a few cubes of ice and stir, briefly, to chill. Reserve.

Pour out the ice from the old fashioned glass and add the Herbsaint, turn the glass to coat, then empty the rest of the Herbsaint from the glass. Strain the reserved rye and bitters mixture into the coated glass, garnish with a strip or twist of lemon. Serve and enjoy, repeat as necessary!

A brief note on the recipe: I've used The Roosevelt's formula here, but if you do decide to Google, you'll find others. Some add a drop of Angostura bitters; some council the use of simple syrup, rather than the sugar cube; and some urge absinthe rather than Herbsaint for sake of tradition. As always, do as you see fit. If it seems easier for you, go ahead and use the simple syrup. In that case, I'd use about a teaspoon.

Like New Orleans itself, there's much to be discovered here. Each sip reveals a new twist, a new layer of flavor ... and the experience only intensifies as the drink warms. Sip slowly, savor it a bit, and you'll notice the layers. The herbal, faintly licorice flavor of the Herbsaint is present, yet doesn't overwhelm. The sweetness of the rye is tempered by the aromatic bitters, and end result is something magical. Its as enchanting as a stroll through the Quarter and as seductive as the city itself. I hope you'll try it.



The Mom Chef said...

I'm jealous that you were in New Orleans. That's a city I've always wanted to visit. The drink looks yummy, but I have no idea what Herbsaint is.

MM said...

I'm glad you enjoyed your trip. Thank you for sharing such a nice picture of my hometown!

Lazaro Cooks! said...

Fantastic whiskey drink. Great recipe. Love the color as well. Could sure use one right about now...The joys of meetings. Yikes!

Heavenly Housewife said...

One day, I must make it to New Orleans. I fell in love with it by reading about it in so many Anne Rice books. I am so happy for you that you got to visit and tell us a bit about it. There is so much great stuff there... and bignets!!!
*kisses* HH

Daily Spud said...

Hooray for Thirsty Thursdays - that Sazerac is a completely new one on me. And I have always, always, always wanted to visit New Orleans - now I will know what to order at the bar when I finally get there!

The Diva on a Diet said...

Mom Chef - Sorry about that ... Herbsaint is a pastis, an anise flavored liqueur. It was developed after absinthe was made illegal and it has a nice, licorice flavor.

MM - I really enjoyed your home town and cannot wait to return! What an amazing place! :)

Lazaro - Thanks, and me too! The next rounds on me! ;)

HH - when you do make it to NOLA, you'll not be disappointed. If there's a more charming city in the US, I can't imagine what it is! xoxoxoxo

Daily Spud - I think it may actually be illegal to leave New Orleans without having had a Sazerac. And, believe when I tell you, I had more than one! LOL Thanks!

pixelgal said...

We've missed you so!!! And such lovely prose to describe a city I've always wanted to visit and a drink I've never heard of. So the next time you go, think of having some geezers along!

Welcome back.

Donna-FFW said...

Enchanting.. what a great word to describe a drink.. it certainly makes me want to try one...or two;)

Molly said...

I love New Orleans, this drink looks intriguing...I have to say I stick to Hurricanes from Pat O'Briens when I go to NO, a bit touristy, but still delish.

Lentil Breakdown said...

Great post! I was just at a NOLA fundraiser and noticed the Sazerac as I was leaving. Darn! Didn't get to try it and had never even heard of it before. Sounds like a fabulous trip!

Daniel said...

Diva, I learn more about booze on your blog than anywhere else (and this is a very good thing). Keep it going!

Casual Kitchen

Wilma said...

Oh Auntie,
I have fallen in love with the city, just by your description.Mom has fallen in love with the cocktail!

jo said...

Great post, very useful for a beginner like me"

The Enchanted Cook said...

Your description made me long for a visit to the Crescent City. It's been a long time and I love, love, love the food there. You made me feel as if I was wandering down those lovely sidestreets in the Quarter once again. And well, an "enchanting" drink is totally me!


Jay said...

It would be a bit more accurate to say Legendre Herbsaint is an absinthe substitute, rather than a pastis,(which is a different spirit) especially in light of the recent return of the vintage formula "Legendre Herbsaint Original", which tastes even closer to to a classic absinthe, than some modern absinthes taste today.

Dee said...

I love New Orleans & have had many a sazerac there. Nice post. What a perfect drink tribute to a fine city!

The Diva on a Diet said...

pixelgal - you really must get to NOLA. I think you'd love it ... and I'm certainly willing to visit again ... soon! :)

Donna - you'll need at least two! ;) LOL

Molly - I never made it to Pat O'Brien's on this trip. So much to see and do there, you can't fit it all in! Next time for sure.

Lentil Breakdown - thanks! Do put the Sazerac on your to-try list. Its unusual and so closely associated with NOLA.

Dan - aw, thank you too! I'm happy to share my passion for unusual cocktails here on the blog ... and really happy to hear you enjoy that. Thank you!

Wilma - you and your mom should visit NOLA, I think you'd like it! And your dad would too ... tell him to bring his guitar! ;)

Enchanted Cook - thank you so much! Funny, writing this made me long to return to NOLA. Its certainly a captivating place!

Jay - thanks for the additional Herbsaint info, I appreciate it! I was simply trying to place the spirit in context by using the term pastis - for those unfamiliar. But you are correct - thanks!

Dee - thanks so much for your kind words and welcome to Beach Eats! :)

MM said...

You've been tagged in an internet game!

daphne said...

perfect timing for my birthday. I want to have a new recipe for my drinks. This cocktail is perfect, thanks=)

The Food Apprecianado said...

My favorite drink, in my favorite city. I love to sip a sazzy (only place in the world that I know of, where cocktails can be "to go") on the river, with my toes in the Mississippi. Mark Twain, eat your heart out!