Last week, La Nouvelle-Orleans, or New Orleans, celebrated its 298th birthday. The perennial Sazerac was one of the earliest drinks the city gave us over 175 years ago, many decades before even jazz was born. Perhaps the Sazerac’s most prominent feature is its unmistakable rose color, derived from the light and floral Peychaud’s bitters, which originated from a local apothecary’s family recipe.
First made with a base of French Cognac until the vines of Europe fell plague to the late-1800s phylloxera epidemic, the later adoption of a rye-whiskey spirit is what many expect today when ordering a Sazerac. Anise, herbs and citrus fuse with the spicy bite of the rye as the drink gently transitions from an ice-cold state to room temperature. Like the old-fashioned, cocktails such as the Sazerac are meant to be enjoyed over the span of 20 to 30 minutes, though with the Sazerac’s nuanced flavors, any ice in the glass diminishes the experience.
Choosing the right rye whiskey is key to balancing this drink. The gold standard for rye tends to be the over-proof Rittenhouse from Kentucky, though it can be a bit meaty for a Sazerac. One of the more adventurous releases of late out of Utah, High West’s Yippee Ki-Yay Rye, melds two-year-old and 16-year-old ryes in one spirit, then finishes the blend in used vermouth and Syrah barrels. It works well in the Sazerac, with berried wine notes giving this rye a far less dry feel, akin to brandy. With more rye whiskies on the market than ever before, it’s all the more reason to cool down with one of Louisiana’s best in the warmer months ahead.
Servings: 1 cocktail
2 ounces High West Yippee Ki-Yay Rye Whiskey
1 white sugar cube
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Delaware Phoenix Meadow of Love Absinthe rinse
- Place a rocks glass in the freezer to chill.
- In a mixing glass, douse a sugar cube with Peychaud’s bitters.
- Add whiskey and stir well for 10 seconds.
- Add a dash of absinthe to the chilled rocks glass, turning it around the inside carefully.
- Strain mixing glass into chilled rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Prep Time: 3 minutes
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