As I've loved both bourbon and rye for a while and cocktails for even longer, it was inevitable that this historical favorite was brought to my attention.
Now, I like history. A lot. In fact I list amateur historian higher than bourbon evangelist in most of my bios. But it takes more than the fact that something is old to make me curious about it. There has to be a hook. Something that really makes me want to make the investment to try it.
The sazerac's hook for me was the absinthe. Absinthe is expensive and hard to find. At least here in Minnesota. And in almost every description of a sazerac that I've ever read, you take that expensive, hard to find liquor and "discard" some of it. You dump it out! And yet, people love it. I read raving reviews of it almost every time I read about it. So when I found it on a menu while visiting Louisville recently, I thought to myself: "I have to try this." Guess what? I fell in love. The Sazerac was trying for first place in my list of favorite cocktails.
Unfortunately, I couldn't make one. After searching all my favorite liquor stores, I found one bottle of absinthe and it was $70. That's a bit rich for anything non-bourbon for me. Sad-Eric was Sad.
Fast forward to my recent vacation to Colorado. I love craft distillers, so every time I visit an area, I look up who's there. I try to take a tour, but if I can't I try to buy some of their product. Low and behold, local distiller Leopold Brothers made an award-winning absinthe. And they sold it in 375 mL bottles which brings the cost of entry down significantly (~$35). That was the last piece I needed to try to make my own at home.
I did some research and found a recipe that sounded trustworthy. While the recipe may have been fine, I made a horrible, undrinkable mess. I dumped half of the drink out. Sad-Eric was very sad. Again. But, as I (now) always say: if at first you don't succeed, dump it out and try again.
So, another night, another try. I was so scared off by the first recipe, that I found another recipe. The article that preceded it told me what I should be looking for in a well crafted Sazerac. I tried again. This time when I took a sip, I was overcome. This was the tasty drink I remembered! While it wasn't perfect, it was close enough to look forward to trying again until it was. After some tweaking and modification, the recipe I now follow is below:
.25 oz water
1 tsp sugar
Peychaud’s bitters (4 shakes of the bottle)
2 oz Bulleit Rye
.5-.75 tsp Leopold Brothers Absinthe Verte
1. Chill your rocks glass
2. Mix the water and sugar in your mixing glass. Stick it in the microwave for 10-20 seconds to dissolve the sugar.
3. Add ice to the mixing glass, dash in the bitters
4. Add Rye and stir for about 30 seconds
5. Coat the inside of the chilled rocks glass with the absinthe. Dump out the excess
6. Strain the rye mixture into the coated glass and twist the lemon zest above the drink to release lemon oils into the glass. Wipe the zest around the rim.
Want to learn even more about Sazerac's? This series of blog posts was recommended to me by a friend and is very interesting 28 Sazeracs in 28 Days. The Sazerac company also gives some history and a recipe.