When you’re starting out as a bartender, the Sazerac is one of the first things you learn to make. Why? Because it’s a certified classic. Sure, it’s also kind of an obscure drink nowadays and people rarely order them - but it’s not like a lawyer can just turn to a judge and say, “I’m sorry your honor, that law’s too obscure, and I didn’t bother to learn it.” Seeing as how you probably aren’t a professional bartender, here’s another reason to make Sazerac: it’s a delicious drink. It’s also incredibly strong, with a hint of absinthe, and it’s one of the only cocktails you’ll see in a rocks glass without ice.
How It Tastes: Strong & Complex
- Rocks glass
- .5 ounce simple syrup
- 2 ounces rye whiskey
- Peychaud’s Bitters
- Absinthe or pastis
Step One: Prep Your Glassware
Like we mentioned early, your Sazerac is going in a rocks glass without any ice. So in order to make sure it doesn’t reach room temperature in a matter of seconds, you should freeze your rocks glass for at least 15 minutes to get it nice and frosty.
Step Two: Simple Syrup
Find yourself a mixing glass. And by that we mean an actual mixing glass or any kind of cup that’s big enough to stir in. Next, add half an ounce of simple syrup (equal parts warm water and white sugar, stirred until dissolved). You can also use plain white sugar for this or even a sugar cube - but with simple syrup, you don’t have to worry about undissolved bits of sugar floating around in the bottom of your drink.
Step Three: Peychaud’s Bitters
Peychaud’s Bitters are from New Orleans (as is the Sazerac), and they’re bright red with a predominant anise flavor. You can use as few as two dashes, but since we’re fans of bitter things, we typically do four. And if you’re wondering what a dash is, we don’t really have a definition, other than “whatever comes out of the bottle when you shake it quickly.” However many dashes you choose, add them to the simple syrup in your mixing glass.
Step Four: Rye
Originally, this cocktail was made with cognac or brandy - but that was over 100 years ago, and rye whiskey is more typical nowadays. Would a Sazerac made with cognac be delicious? Of course, but good cognac is considerably more expensive than good rye whiskey, and we, personally, are big fans of rye. So find yourself a decent brand (Rittenhouse is the best one under $30), and add 2 ounces to your mixing glass.
Step Five: Rinse Your Glass With Absinthe
You were probably expecting us to tell you to add ice and stir your cocktail now, but you’re actually going to finish prepping your glassware. Take your rocks glass out of the freezer, and find your bottle of absinthe or pastis. (Pastis is essentially just a less-strong, slightly sweet version of absinthe that was invented when absinthe was outlawed for a host of dumb reasons. Both are legal now.) Next, you’re going to coat - or “rinse,” as bartenders say - the inside of your drinking (not mixing) glass with this anise-flavored alcohol. Make sure your glass is completely dry, then pour in roughly one teaspoon and swirl it around until your glass is completely coated. Next, dump out the excess, but not before you consider drinking it.
Step Six: Stir
Your glassware is ready to go, so now you’re going to add about six ice cubes to your mixing glass, and give your cocktail a stir for about 20 seconds. After, strain it into your chilled and absinthe-coated rocks glass, and garnish with a lemon twist. Finally, hold your Sazerac up to a light source and admire the color and general elegance of what you’re about to drink. You’re a very classy person. Everyone says so.