Classic Cocktails Every Bartender Should Know: Sazerac

The Sazerac is New Orleans oldest and most famous cocktail. The tale goes that around 1838 in New Orleans, Louisiana a local pharmacy owner named Antoine Peychaud started putting together a special cocktail with brandy, absinthe and his own special creation of bitters and serving it late night to his friends at the French Quarter location. In 1850, Sewell Taylor, owner of The Merchants Exchange Coffee House would start serving the cocktail with his brandy, Sazerac de Forge which he was the sole importer, and marketing the drink as the Sazerac. Taylor would go on to sell his bar and new owner Aaron Bird would rename it sold his bar to the Sazerac Coffee House. The original cocktail recipe featured the Sazerac de Forge, Absinthe, sugar and bitters from local bitters maker Peychaud.

Of course, there are a few different tales on the origins of one of America’s oldest and most famous cocktails, including the original recipe allegedly using Selner bitters instead of Peychaud. There are arguments over the time frame and whether or not it is it’s own special cocktail or just a mimic of the Old Fashioned with local ingredients. The Sazerac Bar itself has changed ownership and undergone slight name changes over the years but still stands in the Roosevelt hotel in New Orleans.

The drink has changed several times over the past century and a half due to some world events such as the phylloxera epidemic of Europe in the late 19th century that devastated the French wine vineyards, thus the switch to American Rye Whiskey. Other changes included the banning of Absinthe from 1912 until 2007, which led to the inclusion of the substitute herbsaint to wash the glass.

The Recipe: Sazerac


  • 2 oz – Rye Whiskey
  • 1/2 oz – Absinthe
  • 1/2 oz – Simple Syrup
  • 4 Dashes Peychauds Bitters
  • Lemon Zest

Tools and Glassware:

  • Cocktail Glass
  • Mixing Glass
  • Bar Spoon
  • Strainer

How to prepare the drink:

To get started, take a cocktail glass and ice and the Absinthe. Let it sit so it can chill while you prepare the rest of the drink. While that is chilling, take 2 ounces of Rye, a half ounce of Simple Syrup and four dashes of Peychauds Bitters and add them to a mixing glass with ice. Take your bar spoon and stir for about 30 seconds.

Now take the glass chilling with the Absinthe and ice and spin it to wash the glass with the Absinthe. Coating the inside of the glass with the Absinthe and then dump the contents. Then strain the ingredients of the mixing glass into the cocktail glass and zest and garnish the glass with a lemon peel and you are done.

There you have it, New Orleans’ famed Sazerac. Enjoy!

Originally published on DCXIV