Cocktails: Sazerac

The Sazerac cocktail is one of the first cocktails to be “invented”. Books have literally been written about this cocktail and one of the most important spirits companies in the world – Sazerac Company Inc. out of New Orleans, LA – has been named after it.

Today, the Sazerac is made from Rye whiskey, but it was originally made from French Cognac – and more specifically the brand “Sazerac de Forge“. 

Please note: The recipes on my blog almost all differ from the the standards set forth by IBA (International Bartenders Association) – but they represent the version that I like the most. If you have a great twist on one of my recipes that you think I should try out – please send me a message on Instagram via my @the_bourbon_nerd account. 

Equipment needed

  • Mixing glass
  • Strainer
  • Bar spoon
  • If you do not use a big ice cube (see below): A small glass, such as for port wine
  • If you do use a big ice cube: A normal Old Fashioned glass (or similar)

Ingredients (for one cocktail)

  • 2oz (6cl) of American Rye whiskey, around 90-100 proof (45-50% ABV)
  • 4 dashed of Peychaud’s bitters (you cannot substitute this with another type)
  • 1 dash of orange bitters. I prefer the make “Bitter Truth
  • ½oz (1.5cl) of simple syrup (50/50 water and cane sugar)
  • 1 bar spoon of Absinth – I prefer the one from Pernod 
  • Ice cubes for the mixing glass and the small glass
  • Optional: Large ice cube, if you prefer a large glass
  • Optional: Lemon or orange peel for garnish

Step-by-step guide

  1. Pour the Absinth in the glass you will be drinking from. Make sure that it covers the entire inside of the glass, by swirling the liquid around. If you are going for a small glass, fill it with ice cubes, so that it starts to cool down the glass.
  2. In a mixing glass, add whiskey, syrup, bitters and a liberal amount of ice.
  3. Use the bar spoon to mix everything together at a good pace for 30 seconds.
  4. Empty the Absinth that is in your cocktail glass into the sink (including the ice cubes, if you have a small glass). That’s right: You throw out the Absinth! (But it is more than OK if there is a little left in there – in fact I prefer it that way).
  5. Strain the liquid from the mixing glass into the cocktail glass. If you went for a large glass, make sure to place a large ice cube in it first.
  6. Optional: Garnish with a lemon peel, but remember to squeeze some of the lemon oils out on the rim of the glass as well.


A few words on choosing the bitters

The red – and very distinctly tasting – Peychaud’s is mandatory for this cocktail. No Peychaud’s, no Sazerac. Many recipes also suggests two dashes of Angostura bitters. I personally think this adds a little to much spice and distracts the balanced sweetness from the whiskey and the simple syrup. There are also recipes that only suggests Peychaud’s and nothing more. I use a single dash of orange bitters after having done quite a few experiments – and I must say it really does work. But make your own experiments – that’s part of the fun! 

Small or large glass?

Well … the cocktail tastes the same – so it is primarily a question about presentation. If you use a small glass make sure to chill it (as per the instructions above) and if you use a large glass, make sure to use a large cube. Most cocktail bars will serve it in a large glass without ice, as depicted in the picture on the top. I personally think it looks a little overwhelming – and almost like you only got half a cocktail. A large cube will fix that – and keep the cocktail cold with very little dilution. 

Buy simple sirup or make it yourself?

You should make it yourself – cheaper, better and extremely easy; you add one part of sugar and one part of water to a container with a lid, shake it for a minute, wait for five minutes to let it settle, shake for another minute and finally wait for everything to settle again (probably 10 minutes). You now have made your own simple syrup and you can keep it in the fridge for several weeks.

Leave the absinth or throw it out?

One of the most surprising things about the Sazerac cocktail is that you add absinth – only to throw it out before mixing. After quite a few of these cocktails under the belt, I have started to use a little less than a full bar spoon – and then leave it. This, for me, is the best compromise. Try it!  

Which Rye whiskey to choose

There are SO many great Rye whiskeys out there – and most of them will probably work, as long as they are in the 90-100 proof (45-50% ABV) range. You should, however, stay clear of Rye whiskeys that are peated and/or made from a lot of malted grain. If you have no clue how to figure out if a certain Rye whiskey falls into those categories, just choose one of these readily available products:

  • Sazerac Rye (seems obvious, right?)
  • Michter’s Rye
  • Knob Creek Rye
  • Bulleit Rye
  • Wild Turkey 101 Rye
These are the brands I use for my version of the Sazerac.
An example of a Sazerac served in a small glass (in this example a glass made for sweet wine).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *