My favourite cocktail of the moment, and for the last few months of moments, is The Sazerac. It’s a cocktail that I first tried in Match Bar near Oxford Circus a year or so ago (the first drink towards an evening which ended with me smoking out the back of the bar with the staff and ‘helping’ to close up before eventually finding a night bus home and eating a ropey kebab. On a Sunday night) and is generally considered to be one of the first cocktails.
Simply put, it’s a tweak to an old fashioned, using bright red Peychaud’s Bitters, rather than the traditional Angostura, and rye whiskey, all poured into an absinthe washed glass. These days the modern sazerac is rye stirred with ice, sugar (syrup or a cube depending on the stirrer) and Peychaud’s, in some way then joined with absinthe.
While some bartenders add a drop to the mix I prefer to drop back to the recipe I was originally told and coat the glass with absinthe, which doesn’t add much to the flavour of the spirit directly, but adds everything through smell – when you bring the glass to your mouth the sweet aniseed hits you in the face just before you sip the sweetened, spicy whiskey.
I recorded a short video showing how I make them. Please forgive my dirty kitchen…
Mine comes out reminding me of a sweet shop – hints of aniseed overlaid with candy sweetness and spiciness, along with the red colouring of the drink fooling the brain into expecting a boiled sweet flavour all add to the scent of childhood, with an extra brain punching slug of booze.
If you want to know how to do it properly, then have a look at this video. He pretty much agrees with me, but says it much better. His accent is much more authentic than my Sussex sourced tones as well.
It’s become, along with the ‘Wet, slightly dirty Martini’ one of my standard drinks to order in a bar. So far they’ve generally been what I’ve expected, with varying levels of similarity (for good or ill) to the ones I make at home. However the one I had at Maze was both entirely different and also quite nice, which I wouldn’t have expected from the ingredients – Johnny Walker Black Label, Pernod, Angostura Bitters and a sugar cube, all stirred up with some ice. It may be an old cocktail and one not much known these days, but there are still a bunch of variations on the theme, many of them listed in bar bibles as ‘The Original Sazerac’… I still like mine the most.