Cocktail Recipe: Sazerac


If you are a whiskey lover like me, you may have had the pleasure of enjoying a Sazerac at some point in your life. The Sazerac is an old-fashioned cocktail from pre-Civil War New Orleans; it’s a combination of Rye whiskey, Absinthe, water, bitters, sugar & lemon. This highly aromatic, spiritous cocktail is complex, balanced, slightly spicy and extremely delicious when prepared correctly. It’s very important to follow the recipe precisely – being sure to measure your ingredients – when making this drink. It can easily fall out of balance. I’ve had more bad Sazeracs than good ones when ordering them at a bar or restaurant.

There are several variations of this cocktail and you might see it made with Cognac instead of Rye, or with different kinds of bitters. Traditionally it’s made just with Peychaud’s bitters, but I like to add a little dash of Angostura bitters to provide another layer of complexity. One other important factor, I believe, is using the most minuscule amount of Absinthe as possible. The flavor and aroma of Absinthe is so strong that it can easily overpower the drink.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe leading principle behind this cocktail is not necessarily the ingredients, but how it’s prepared. Instead of a cocktail shaker, you use two chilled glasses equal in size; one for mixing the cocktail, the other for ‘rinsing’ with Absinthe and serving. The method is described in detail below. One thing I would like to point out is that instead of ‘rinsing’ the serving glass, I use a little perfume-type bottle filled with Absinthe to spray the inside of the glass with. A really wonderful bartender I met in Austin was kind enough to give me one when I marveled at his as he was making me a Sazerac. It’s pure genius.

(adapted from

Two small, chilled glasses (I use scotch glasses)
Vegetable Peeler
Cocktail Strainer
Muddler (I use the blunt end of a chopstick)

(makes one cocktail)
1.5 oz Rye Whiskey (I like Bulliet, it’s inexpensive and perfect for this drink)
Absinthe (I use St. George, duh)
2 Dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
1 Sugar Cube
Lemon Twist
Splash of Water

Chill both of your glasses, one filled with ice.
Drop the sugar cube into the chilled glass with no ice.
Add just enough water to moisten the sugar cube.
Add 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters & 1 dash Angostura bitters & muddle the sugar cube.
Measure and pour 1.5 oz. rye whiskey into the glass.
Add a few ice cubes to the glass and stir gently for 10 seconds.
Empty ice cubes from the second chilled glass.
Add the smallest amount of Absinthe, swirl around the glass, and dump the excess out (or use a spritzer like I did).
Strain the mixture from Glass #1 into the Absinthe-washed Glass #2.
Peel the zest of a lemon over the glass, twist the zest over the glass, and wipe around the rim.
Discard the lemon twist & enjoy your cocktail.

If you made it right, this cocktail should be lemony, anisey, oaky and spicy all at once. It’s truly a gentleman’s drink, or gentlelady’s drink in my case. Enjoy!