• Mixology Monday LXXX Cocktail: The Royal Sazerac

    The Royal Sazerac cocktail.

    The Royal Sazerac cocktail.

    Yes, it’s Tuesday. But it was Mixology Monday, and we did make a cocktail. Let’s hope Nick at the Straight Up blog (worth a regular visit, btw) will show some Christmas spirit and let us in late. As it is, here is the summary for this month’s theme, Anise:

    mxmologoWhile I had a few ideas I’ve been kicking around for this months theme, including some more holidayesque thoughts, I ultimately decided on one of my favorite flavors: anise. Although great any time of year, there is something about colder weather and the holidays that really sets my anise fetish into overdrive. While past MxMos have seen a few specific sources of anise, such as pastis and absinthe, I wanted to open things up to anything anise flavored, the more unique the better. Most folks have something with anise notes laying around, whether it’s absinthe or pastis, ouzo, Genepe, even Green Chartreuse, Peychaud’s, Raki, etc. Maybe get creative and make something tasty with some star anise, like a syrup, infusion or tincture.  Show us that riff on a Sazerac or Improved Holland Gin Cocktail that you love, or create something entirely new.

    Cool theme, and one we were quite happy to play with. As it turns out, there are plenty of ways to use anise flavor in cocktails. As a lead element, anise means licorice and herbal flavors. But as many home bartenders know, an extra dash of anise flavor is often used to supply that “I know not what” of extra complexity and depth to many famous drinks. From pre-prohibition cocktails to tiki drinks, you will find anise (usually in the form of absinthe or pastis) in dozens of drinks where you might not expect it.

    saz2saz3We started this MxMo with the intent of experimenting and putting anise in the lead of a new cocktail. And we did have a nice gin, lime, fennel, tarragon, Chartreuse, absinthe and sugar thing going. That drink will eventually make the blog, but we got sidetracked.

    saz4 Continue reading

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  • Weekly Cocktail #28: The Sazerac

    The Sazerac Cocktail.

    As we noted all week, fall is almost here. And for us, fall means we get to break out the “brown” drinks. And we don’t mean to be derisive, but these are darker, heavier, and often sweeter, than most cocktails. Perfect for fall and winter, but perhaps a bit heavy for spring and summer. But as the weather starts to change, we occasionally crave a good brown drink; Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Vieux Carre’ and the Sazerac.

    And if we are drinking a strong whiskey cocktail, it’s very likely the Sazerac, the classic cocktail of New Orléans.  The Sazerac combines rye whiskey (yes we are on a rye kick), sugar, Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters with a touch of ice, served in an absinthe-rinsed glass and a lemon twist. We think of the Sazerac as an old-time Whiskey Cocktail (whiskey, sugar, bitters ice/water) with a few extra touches. Those extra touches include more bitters (some recipes use only Peychaud’s, we like using both), an absinthe rinse for the glass and the lemon twist. It may not sound like much, but these small changes make for a big difference. Nothing tastes quite like a Sazerac. Sweet, spicy and herbal, the Sazerac is a cocktail you can linger over and enjoy.

    In fact, many versions of the Sazerac suggest using little or no ice. And this makes some sense, as the drink comes from New Orleans in the mid 1800’s and ice wasn’t always readily available. And even if the cocktail were chilled, it would get warm fast-best to have a cocktail that tastes good cold or at room temperature. And while the Sazerac will taste good without much chill, we still prefer it cold.

    As for the history of the Sazerac, it was “invented”  at the Merchant’s Exchange Coffee House in the 1800’s. At the time, the spirit was cognac (the name “Sazerac” comes from a brand of cognac), not whiskey, but the phylloxera outbreaks of the 19th century forced the move to whiskey. Some early recipes also use bitters other than Peychaud’s, but Peychaud’s is now standard ingredient (purists will not like the inclusion of Angostura). The absinthe (or herbsaint- a pastis from New Orléans) has been a constant part of the recipe. It is unclear when the lemon twist came into things- but it’s good- and was in the recipe when it was first published in the 1908 cocktail book, “The World’s Drinks and How to Mix Them“.

    Finally, making the Sazerac does require a few extra steps, but they are worth it. You need to muddle a sugar cube (you can use simple syrup, too) and the bitters before adding the ice and Rye. And you need to rinse the serving glass with absinthe. This seems fussy, but it does seem to give you the perfect amount of absinthe- it won’t overpower the other ingredients. And finally you need to do a thorough job with the lemon twist and get all of those tasty oils in the drink. When you’re done, you get a lovely, complex sip. As we said “nothing tastes quite like a Sazerac”, and since there is no place quite like New Orléans, we think that fits.

    The Sazerac:

    • 2 oz. rye whiskey
    • 1 sugar cube (Demerara sugar preferred)
    • 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
    • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
    • 1 teaspoon absinthe or pastis, for rinse
    • Lemon peel, for garnish

    Assemble:

    1. Muddle the sugar cube and bitters in a mixing glass. Add the rye and ice. Stir to chill.
    2. Meanwhile, coat the inside of a lowball or old-fashioned glass with the absinthe. Pour off any excess. Add one large ice cube to the glass and pour in the cocktail. Twist the lemon peel directly over the drink to extract the oils. Discard the used lemon peel. Serve.