Fat Tuesday Happiness
We just caught a glimpse of the local Fat Tuesday parade—trombones and tubas thumping out jazz, kids with masks and beads, a happy crowd strolling down the street in the rain. I didn’t join in, but watching their fun did make me thirsty for a Sazerac. I’ve been itching to make one ever since the husband returned from NOLA with souvenir glassware from The Sazerac Bar, in The Roosevelt New Orleans, and tonight might just be the night.
Indeed, it’s the one drink you should make today, no matter what your Mardi Gras plans are, according to cocktail guru David Wondrich.
“Do it tonight,” Wondrich says of the classic New Orleans drink on Esquire’s drinks site. “In solidarity.”
Here’s his recipe: Get two Old-Fashioned glasses. In the first, muddle one sugar cube with a few drops of water. Add several small ice cubes and 2-1/2 ounces rye whiskey, 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters and 1 dash Angostura bitters (optional, but traditional, he says). Stir well and strain into a second, chilled, Old-Fashioned glass in which you have rolled around a few drops of absinthe (no substitute really works, but you can try either a mix of Pernod and green Chartreuse, or Absente) until its inside is thoroughly coated, pouring off the excess. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel.
Then there’s Dale DeGroff. His published versions of the Sazerac vary, so I’ll offer this one from The Essential Cocktail, if only because it’s more streamlined: Take two rocks glasses and fill one with ice to chill for serving while preparing the drink in the other. In the bottom of the prep glass, muddle one sugar cube (2 for a sweeter drink) and 3 or 4 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters until the sugar is dissolved; a splash of water can expedite the process. Add 2 ounces rye whiskey and several ice cubes, and stir to chill. Take the serving glass, toss out its ice, and add a splash of absinthe or Pernod. Swirl it around to coat the inside of the glass, and then pour out any liquid that remains. Strain the chilled cocktail into this prepared glass. Garnish by twisting a lemon peel over the top and dropping it into the drink.
Why the Old-Fashioned/rocks glasses? DeGroff says it’s “a tradition born of commonsense at a time when the bartender did not have an array of mixing tools and vessels.”
Why the absinthe, Herbsaint or Pernod? Absinthe was the original ingredient, but, after it was outlawed, anise-flavored liqueurs like Herbsaint and Pernod became stand-ins. Even though you can now again buy absinthe, many folks prefer the modern tradition.
Why Peychaud’s bitters? Because they’re a hometown favorite, created by Antoine Peychaud in the early nineteenth century and used in the original Sazerac. But they didn’t used to be widely distributed, so Angostura found its way into the drink. That’s no longer a problem—you can run down to Gomer’s on 39th right now and buy a bottle of Peychaud’s for under $6, or order them online from The Sazerac Company.
And with that, here’s the Sazerac Co.’s recipe for The Official Sazerac Cocktail: Pack an Old-Fashioned glass with ice. In a second Old-Fashioned glass, place one sugar cube and add 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters to it, and then crush the sugar cube. Add 1-1/2 ounces Sazerac Rye or Buffalo Trace Bourbon (the same company owns both) to the glass containing the bitters and sugar. Empty the ice from the first glass and coat it with 1/4 ounce Herbsaint, then discard the remaining Herbsaint. Empty the whiskey/bitters/sugar mixture from the second glass into the first glass and garnish with a lemon peel.