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This article is about the cocktail; for the company, see Sazerac Company.
A Sazerac at the Sazerac Bar, The Roosevelt New Orleans Hotel
Type Cocktail
Served straight up
Standard garnish

Lemon peel

Standard drinkware
Old Fashioned Glass.svg
Old Fashioned glass
Commonly used ingredients
Preparation One old fashioned or rocks glass is packed with ice and water to chill the glass. In a second old fashioned glass, muddle the sugar cube or simple syrup with the bitters. Add the rye to this mixture. Stir to combine. Empty the ice from the first glass. Pour the absinthe or Herbsaint into the glass and swirl to coat the sides of the glass. Any excess absinthe or Herbsaint is discarded. Pour the rye/sugar/bitters mixture into the coated glass. Twist a lemon peel over the glass and rub the rim of the glass with the peel. The peel can be discarded or placed into the cocktail.[1]
Notes Originally, the Sazerac was made and served in an egg cup called a "coquetier"—a word speculated by some linguists to be the origin of the word "cocktail", though this myth has now been debunked. See below.

The Sazerac is a local New Orleans variation of an old-fashioned Cognac or whiskey cocktail, named for the Sazerac de Forge et Fils brand of Cognac brandy that was its original prime ingredient. The drink is some combination of cognac or rye or bourbon whiskey, absinthe or Herbsaint, and Peychaud's Bitters; it is distinguished by its preparation method.[2] It is sometimes referred to as the oldest known American cocktail,[3] with origins in pre–Civil War New Orleans, though there are much earlier published instances of the word cocktail.[4]


The defining feature of the Sazerac is the preparation using Peychaud's Bitters[5] and two chilled old-fashioned glasses, one swirled with a light wash of absinthe for the slight taste and strong scent.[6] The second chilled glass is used to mix the other ingredients, then the contents of that are poured or strained into the first.[7] Various anisettes such as Pastis, Pernod, Ricard, and Herbsaint are common substitutes for absinthe when it is not available; in New Orleans Herbsaint is most commonly used.[8]


Around 1850, Sewell T. Taylor sold his bar, The Merchants Exchange Coffee House, and went into the imported liquor business. He began to import a brand of cognac named Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils. At the same time, Aaron Bird took over the Merchants Exchange and changed its name to the Sazerac House and legend has it that he then began serving the "Sazerac Cocktail", made with Sazerac Cognac imported by Taylor and allegedly with the bitters being made down the street by a local druggist, Antoine Amedie Peychaud. The Sazerac House changed hands several times and around 1870 Thomas Handy took over as proprietor. Around this time the primary ingredient changed from cognac to rye whiskey due to the phylloxera epidemic in Europe that devastated France's wine grape crops.[9] At some point before his death in 1889, Handy recorded the recipe for the cocktail, and the drink made its first printed appearance in William T. "Cocktail Bill" Boothby's 1908 The World's Drinks and How to Mix Them.[10] though this recipe calls for Selner Bitters, not Peychaud's.[11] After absinthe was banned in the US in 1912, it was replaced by various anise-flavored spirits, especially Herbsaint from New Orleans.[8]

The drink is a simple variation on a plain whiskey or Cognac cocktail (alcohol, sugar, water and bitters) and could have been ordered in any latter 19th Century bar in the US as a whiskey cocktail with a dash of absinthe. It was this type of variation to the cocktail that caused patrons not interested in the new complexities of cocktails to request their drinks done the Old Fashioned way. By the early 20th Century, vermouth was fairly prevalent, and simple cocktails like the Sazerac had become a somewhat rare curiosity, which aided its popularity.[6]

The creation of the Sazerac has also been credited to Antoine Amadie Peychaud, the Creole apothecary who moved to New Orleans from the West Indies and set up shop in the French Quarter in the early part of the 19th Century. He dispensed a proprietary mix of aromatic bitters from an old family recipe. According to legend he served his drink in the large end of an egg cup that was called a coquetier in French, and that the Americanized pronunciation of this as "cocktail" gave this type of drink its name.[5] However, the word cocktail, as a type of drink, predates this by decades, first appearing in print in 1803, and first defined in print in 1806 as "a mixture of spirits of any kind, water, sugar and bitters, vulgarly called a bittered sling.".[12]

Official cocktail of New Orleans[edit]

In March 2008, Louisiana state senator Edwin R. Murray (D-New Orleans) filed Senate Bill 6 designating the Sazerac as Louisiana's official state cocktail. The bill was defeated on April 8, 2008. After further debate, on June 23, 2008 the Louisiana Legislature agreed to proclaim the Sazerac as New Orleans' official cocktail.[13]


Sazerac is also a brand of rye whiskey owned by the Sazerac Company and produced at the Buffalo Trace Distillery. There are two current expressions of the brand; an 18-year-old whiskey and a 6 year-old. Both are bottled at 90 proof.

In popular culture[edit]

A Sazerac cocktail features prominently in an episode of the TV series Treme when chef Janette Desautel (played by Kim Dickens) tosses one in the face of restaurant critic and food writer Alan Richman (appearing as himself). Richman had angered many New Orleanians in 2006 with an article in the magazine GQ in which he criticized New Orleans' food culture post-Katrina. Despite reservations, he agreed to participate in the scene and called Sazerac "a good choice of weaponry, because it symbolizes the city".[14]

In the film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Benjamin's father orders two Whiskey Sazeracs when first meeting his son at a brothel in New Orleans.

In the film State of the Union (1948), starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn as political campaigners, one of the Southern guests of Hepburn's character introduces her to Sazeracs and she becomes intoxicated on them.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Cocktail - How the Sazerac came to be". The Sazerac Company. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  2. ^ Wondrich, David (2007). Imbibe!. Perigee. pp. 199–202. ISBN 978-0-399-53287-0. 
  3. ^ Majumdar, Simon (2009). Eat My Globe: One Year to Go Everywhere and Eat Everything. Simon and Schuster. p. 192. ISBN 1-4165-7602-9. 
  4. ^ Felten, Eric (2007). How's Your Drink? Cocktails, Culture, and the Art of Drinking Well. Surrey Books. pp. 9–10. ISBN 1-57284-089-7. 
  5. ^ a b Difford, Simon (2007). Diffordsguide Cocktails #7 (7 ed.). Diffordsguide. p. 315. ISBN 0-9556276-0-5. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  6. ^ a b Wondrich, David (2007). Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to "Professor" Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar. Perigee. pp. 199–202. ISBN 978-0-399-53287-0. 
  7. ^ Axelrod, Alan (2003). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Mixing Drinks (2 ed.). Penguin. p. 130. ISBN 0-02-864468-9. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  8. ^ a b Simon, Kate (2010). Absinthe Cocktails: 50 Ways to Mix with the Green Fairy. Chronicle Books. p. 33. ISBN 1-4521-0030-6. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  9. ^ Arthur, Stanley (1997). Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix 'Em. Pelican. ISBN 978-0-88289-132-3. 
  10. ^ "The Wondrich Take". Esquire. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  11. ^ Price, Todd A. (July 31, 2010). "Bitter Truth brings its Creole Bitters to the U.S.". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  12. ^ Felten, Eric (2007). How's Your Drink? Cocktails, Culture, and the Art of Drinking Well. Surrey Books. pp. 9–10. ISBN 1-57284-089-7. 
  13. ^ "New Orleans Declares Sazerac Its Cocktail of Choice". All Things Considered (National Public Radio). June 26, 2008. Retrieved December 6, 2010. 
  14. ^ Richman, Alan (May 16, 2011). "Alan Richman Returns To New Orleans". GQ. Retrieved May 16, 2011. 
  15. ^ Albert, Bridget. "Mr. Button's Bourbon Sazerac". Retrieved 2012-11-09.