Weekly Cocktail #34: The Sawyer

The Sawyer.

With the Giants in the World Series and us trying to pick up the kids, get them to the game (doing homework in the car the whole way) and then drive back, it has been a tough week for cocktails around the farm. Not that we mind (Go Giants!). We do get to sneak in a beer now and then (thankfully they have decent beer and pretzels at the ballpark). But we still got to play a bit with cocktails and our focus drifted to using more bitters.

We have been enjoying bitters in sparkling cocktails like the Seelbach and Rochelle-Normande, and started to look for more “bitters-heavy” cocktails to try. And if playing with bitters, then one of the better sources for recipes is Brad Thomas Parson’s cocktail book “Bitters, A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All“. The book has lot’s of history and data on bitters and dozens of classic and new recipes to try. We “sampled” most of the classics, with the Pegu Club being our favorite, so we drifted toward the more modern cocktails.

And it didn’t take long for us to find the Sawyer. The Sawyer combines gin, sugar and lime with a full blast of over 25 dashes of bitters. It’s basically a gimlet with an almost radioactive amount of bitters. But we like gin and lime, so we are always happy to see riffs on the theme. In this case, the Sawyer has 14 dashes of Angostura, 7 of Peychaud’s and 7 of orange bitters (Regan’s #6 and/or Fee’s West Indian). And not only does the drink taste great with layers of spice, cherry, anise and orange, over a core of juniper and lime, but this recipe pretty much represents the “core” bitters you should have in a bar at home (we have more, but we’re geeky that way). And bitters usually cost anywhere from $5 -$15 bucks and last forever, so they are a worthwhile purchase. So here is a bit of info on the bitters:

  • Angostura: The #1 bitters you need in your bar. Many classic and tiki drinks use it and many recipes sub Angostura if you don’t have more exotic bitters handy. Angostura is dark, bitter and spicy with cinnamon and tamarind flavor. It adds a detectable “zing” to most drinks and a bit of a tannic finish.
  • Orange Bitters: After Angostura, orange bitters are the most common, particularly in classic cocktails. Regan’s #6 has deep, spicy orange peel flavors while Fee’s West Indian bitters have brighter, fresher citrus notes.
  • Peychaud’s: Is the bitters of New Orléans and the key to a good Sazerac and many other classic, whiskey-based cocktails. Peychaud’s has pronounced cherry and anise flavor.

The other cool thing about the Sawyer is that is comes from Momofuku Ssam Bar in NYC, one of our favorite places. In typical fashion, Don Lee the bartender created it and named it after the daughter of Wylie Dufresne, another famous NYC Chef. Got all that? This is all sort of “inside baseball”, but the Sawyer is a very tasty drink and features layered, spicy flavors and aromas while still managing to be light and refreshing. A very pleasant surprise, and a good excuse to go get some bitters.

The Sawyer:

(From Brad Thomas Parsons and Don Lee)


  • 2 oz. dry gin
  • 1/2 fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup
  • 14 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 7 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • 7 dashes orange bitters (split of Regan’s #6 and Fees West Indian Orange bitters, if you can)


  1. Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into a chilled old-fashioned glass, cocktail glass or coupé.

20 thoughts on “Weekly Cocktail #34: The Sawyer

  1. Wow, that is a LOT of bitters. I am really intrigued, though. Maybe even intrigued enough to go out and buy two new types of bitters to try this bad boy out.

    • This drink and the Seelbach are the bitters “bombs” but both are really good…

      Some new tiki drinks and swizzles also float big amounts of bitters- and they are pretty good.

      The bitters are worth in, IMHO…

  2. This with suit perfectly on my coffee table just now … what a little pretty and inviting drink. Love the color and the ingredients. Have a pleasant weekend.

  3. The Sawyer sounds good. Always a big fan of drinks with bitters — in fact as a young adult my folks would put bitters in my Shirley Temples to add some more flavor. Thanks for the added info on the different types of bitters out there!

    • Not as spicy, bitter or tannic as you might think…actually pretty good. We actually added hopped grapefruit and tiki bitters to one, that was a little too much…

  4. This looks like an excellent drink to try. We agree that Momofuku is that great. We will make this tomorrow while watching the Giants win the World Series .

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  6. After reading about it in the Bitters book, I was definitely intrigued by the amount of bitter in it, but just never got around to making it… Your post gave me the nudge and several Sawyer’s later, it has made my top five cocktails list. Love it!

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  8. I recently discovered your site and have been reading and trying various cocktails all the way back to the beginning! The Sawyer is a definite winner–great balance of sweet/tart/bitter and interesting flavors. Even stays tasty if ice is added later to keep it cool. It was one of the few to make our house favorites list!

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