The Sazerac cocktail is to New Orleans what the margarita is to the southwest. It is reported to be the first cocktail every invented (at least in the United States).
The Sazerac cocktail is now associated with the Sazerac Bar at the Fairmont Hotel in New Orleans, and the hotel pays an annual fee to the Sazerac Company for the use of the name. When visiting the Sazerac Bar, if you do not want to be labeled as a tourist, be sure not to ask for Ssazerac on the rocks – this drink should never be served with ice.
Sazerac Cocktail History:
Antoine Amadie Peychaud, a Creole apothecary, is given the credit for first inventing the Sazerac cocktail in the 1830s. In 1795, he immigrated to New Orleans from the West Indies and opened a drugstore called Pharmacie Peychaud. Like many “chemists” of his day, he sold his own patent medicine; Peychaud’s Bitters, a proprietary mix of aromatic bitters said to relive his clients’ ailments. His medical toddy soon became very popular and friends gathered regularly to sample his late-night drinks.
The drink was named after an imported Sazerac cognac, Sazerac de Forge et Fils, which was originally used in making the cocktail.
Stomach bitters were basically alcohol disguised as medicine. They became extremely popular from 1850 to 1870 due to the liquor tax laws, the popularity of temperance movements, and local restrictions on the liquor trade.
Peychaud had a unique way of serving his drink. He served it an an egg cup, know to the French speakers as a coquetier. Most historians believe that the work “cocktail” came from a mispronunciation of this French word.
The popularity of the Sazerac cocktail led to the opening of a large bar in 1852 called the Sazerac Coffee House (coffee house was the term used for drinking establishment in the mid-1800s). The bar had a 125-foot-long bar manned by a dozen bartenders all mixing Sazerac cocktails for patrons. In 1870, Thomas H. Handy purchased the Sazerac Coffee House and also bought out the rights to Peychaud’s Bitters. In the early days, the Sazerac cocktail was made with cognac or brandy, but as American tastes changed, rye whiskey was substituted. This unique cocktail derived it anise scent from absinthe. Beginning in 1912, absinthe was banned in the United States because of its habit-forming quality. Pernod, Herbsaint, or Ricard was substituted in place of absinthe.
On June 23, 2008, The Louisiana House of Representatives proclaimed the Sazerac as New Orleans’ official cocktail”.
Sazerac Cocktail Recipe:
Source: Photo from The Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans.