Cocktails: The Sazerac

If you listen to any of the ABVN Podcasts, you probably know by now that this is a pretty big weekend in the world of bourbon. Just over 700 miles south of the bourbon capital of the world, the New Orleans Bourbon Festival has been going on for the past few days, celebrating the city’s historic relationship with bourbon intertwined with the “Big Easy” vibe. While attendees have been enjoying incredible cocktails, world-renowned food, and great music that just isn’t the same anywhere else, those of us back home are doing our best to live vicariously through our Instagram feeds. But if you’re looking get in on the NOLA fun from your kitchen or home bar, look no further than the Sazerac.

The Sazerac, a New Orleans creation, is one of – if not the – oldest iterations of the whiskey cocktail. The drink dates back to the mid 19th century when Antoine Peychaud, owner of a NOLA apothecary, began prescribing his patented herbal bitters mixed into a standard toddy made with water, sugar, and brandy as somewhat of a “cure-all” treatment – the bitters being the defining ingredient that takes this drink from a toddy to a cocktail by the classic definitions.

While the cocktail was originally made with a French brandy called Sazerac de Forge et Fils (Hence the name), the French company closed in the late 19th century and the signature brandy was no longer available. Before too long, rye whiskey was the go-to base for crafting this New Orleans classic. The Sazerac is a drink with a rich history, and while it does require just a little more time and care to make, you’ll find it’s well worth it.


Making the Drink


  • 2 oz Rye Whiskey

  • 1 Demerara Sugar Cube

  • 3-4 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters

  • ½ oz Absinthe

  • Lemon Twist for Garnish




  1. Start by filling an Old Fashioned glass with ice water and set aside to chill. (I like to stick mine in the freezer for a minute or so for an extra chilled glass)
  2. In a 2nd Old Fashioned glass, add 1 Demerara sugar cube, 3-4 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters, and 1 dash Angostura Bitters. Muddle until fully dissolved.
  3. Add 2 oz Rye whiskey and stir with ice.
  4. Empty the chilled Old Fashioned glass, add ½ oz absinthe, and swirl to coat the inside of the glass.
  5. Dump the excess absinthe, and strain cocktail into the absinthe-rinsed glass.
  6. Twist a lemon peel over the drink to express the oils, and drop the peel in the drink to garnish.


As they say in New Orleans, Laissez les bons temps roules – Let the good times roll!


Blake Smith


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