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IBA official cocktail
A Sazerac at the Sazerac Bar, The Roosevelt New Orleans Hotel
Base spirit
ServedStraight up: chilled, without ice
Standard garnishlemon zest
Standard drinkware
Old fashioned glass
IBA specified
PreparationRinse a chilled old-fashioned glass with absinthe or anisette, and add crushed ice. Stir the other ingredients, with ice in a different glass. Discard ice and excess absinthe from the first glass, and strain the mixture into that glass.
Commonly servedAfter dinner
Sazerac recipe at International Bartenders Association

The Sazerac is a local variation of a cognac or whiskey cocktail originally from New Orleans, named for the Sazerac de Forge et Fils brand of cognac brandy that served as its original main ingredient.[1] The drink is most traditionally a combination of cognac or rye whiskey, absinthe, Peychaud's Bitters, and sugar, although bourbon whiskey is sometimes substituted for the rye and Herbsaint is sometimes substituted for the absinthe. Some claim it is the oldest known American cocktail,[2] with origins in antebellum New Orleans, although drink historian David Wondrich is among those who dispute this,[3] and American instances of published usage of the word cocktail to describe a mixture of spirits, bitters, and sugar can be traced to the dawn of the 19th century.[4]


The defining feature of the Sazerac is its method of preparation, which commonly involves two chilled old-fashioned glasses. The first glass is swirled with a wash of absinthe for its flavor and strong scent.[5] The second glass is used to combine the remaining ingredients, which are stirred with ice, then strained into the first glass.[6] Various anisettes such as pastis, Pernod, or Herbsaint are common substitutes when absinthe is unavailable. In New Orleans, Herbsaint is most commonly used due to the absence of absinthe in the U.S. market from 1912 until 2007.[7]


Around 1850, Sewell T. Taylor sold his New Orleans bar, the Merchants Exchange Coffee House, to become an importer of spirits, and he began to import a brand of cognac named Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils. Meanwhile, Aaron Bird assumed proprietorship of the Merchants Exchange and changed its name to Sazerac Coffee House. On October 2, 2019, the Sazerac House opened to the public as a museum and immersive experience that shares the history of the New Orleans cocktail culture, including the Sazerac.[8][9][10]

Legend has it that Bird began serving the "Sazerac Cocktail", made with Sazerac cognac imported by Taylor, and allegedly with bitters being made by the local apothecary, Antoine Amedie Peychaud. The Sazerac Coffee House subsequently changed hands several times, until around 1870 Thomas Handy became its proprietor. It is around this time that the primary ingredient changed from cognac to rye whiskey, due to the phylloxera epidemic in Europe that devastated the vineyards of France.[11]

At some point before his death in 1889, Handy recorded the recipe for the cocktail, which made its first printed appearance in William T. "Cocktail Bill" Boothby's The World's Drinks and How to Mix Them (1908),[12][13] although his recipe calls for Selner Bitters, not Peychaud's.[14] After absinthe was banned in the United States in 1912, it was replaced by various anise-flavored liqueurs, most notably the locally produced Herbsaint, which first appeared in 1934.[7]

By the early 20th century, simple cocktails like the Sazerac had become rare, which eventually rekindled their popularity.[15]

The creation of the Sazerac has also been credited to Antoine Amédée Peychaud, a Creole apothecary who emigrated to New Orleans from the West Indies and set up shop in the French Quarter in the early 19th century. He was known to dispense a proprietary mix of aromatic bitters from an old family recipe. According to popular myth, he served his drink in the large end of an egg cup that was called a coquetier in French, and the Americanized mispronunciation resulted in the name cocktail.[16] This belief was debunked when people discovered that the term "cocktail" as a type of drink first appeared in print at least as far back as 1803—and was defined in print in 1806 as, "a mixture of spirits of any kind, water, sugar and bitters, vulgarly called a bittered sling".[17]

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.[18]

In 2011, as a writer for the HBO TV series Treme, Anthony Bourdain penned a scene in which 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-Hurricane Katrina. Despite reservations, he agreed to participate in the scene and called Sazerac "a good choice of weaponry, because it symbolizes the city",[19] despite a running feud with Bourdain over, among other things, the review.[20][21]

Similar cocktails[edit]

A cocktail named the Zazarack was included in the 1910 version of Jack's Manual, an early bartender's reference written by Jacob "Jack" Grohusko, the head bartender at Baracca's restaurant in New York.[22] It is essentially the same cocktail as the Sazerac, but called for bourbon (and not rye) instead of cognac.[23]

Later versions of the drink were spelled Zazarac and added rum, and are thought by some to be a variant of the Sazerac,[24] although it might have originated completely independently of the more famous drink.[25]


Sazerac is also a brand of rye whiskey produced by the Sazerac Company.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Cocktail – How the Sazerac came to be". The Sazerac Company. Retrieved July 6, 2012.
  2. ^ Majumdar, Simon (2009). Eat My Globe: One Year to Go Everywhere and Eat Everything. Simon and Schuster. pp. 192. ISBN 978-1-4165-7602-0.
  3. ^ "David Wondrich dispels Sazerac myths". Archived from the original on September 29, 2009. Retrieved February 24, 2016.
  4. ^ Felten, Eric (2007). How's Your Drink? Cocktails, Culture, and the Art of Drinking Well. Surrey Books. pp. 9–10. ISBN 978-1-57284-089-8.
  5. ^ Wondrich, David (2007). Imbibe!. Perigee. pp. 199–202. ISBN 978-0-399-53287-0.
  6. ^ Axelrod, Alan (2003). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Mixing Drinks (2nd ed.). Penguin. p. 130. ISBN 0-02-864468-9. Retrieved July 6, 2012.
  7. ^ a b Simon, Kate (2010). Absinthe Cocktails: 50 Ways to Mix with the Green Fairy. Chronicle Books. p. 33. ISBN 978-1-4521-0030-2. Retrieved July 6, 2012.
  8. ^ "History Associates Toasts the Opening of the Sazerac House". Archived from the original on October 16, 2019. Retrieved October 15, 2019.
  9. ^ Kostas Ignatiadis: Drink der Woche: der Sazerac Cocktail – das Rezept. Esquire, 5. November 2021 (German)
  10. ^ Sarah Roahen: "Sazerac". In: Susan Tucker (ed.): New Orleans Cuisine: Fourteen Signature Dishes and Their Histories. University Press of Mississippi, 2009, ISBN 9781604731279, pp. 28-37
  11. ^ Arthur, Stanley (1997). Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix 'Em. Pelican. ISBN 978-0-88289-132-3.
  12. ^ Boothby, William (1908). The world's drinks and how to mix them: Standard authority. p. 29. ASIN B00088HN8Q.
  13. ^ "The Wondrich Take". Esquire. Retrieved July 6, 2012.
  14. ^ Price, Todd A. (July 31, 2010). "Bitter Truth brings its Creole Bitters to the U.S." The Times-Picayune. Retrieved July 6, 2012.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Difford, Simon (2007). Diffordsguide Cocktails #7 (7 ed.). Diffordsguide. p. 315. ISBN 978-0-9556276-0-6. Retrieved July 6, 2012.
  17. ^ Felten, Eric (2007). How's Your Drink? Cocktails, Culture, and the Art of Drinking Well. Surrey Books. pp. 9–10. ISBN 978-1-57284-089-8.
  18. ^ "New Orleans Declares Sazerac Its Cocktail of Choice". All Things Considered. National Public Radio. June 26, 2008. Retrieved December 6, 2010.
  19. ^ Richman, Alan (May 16, 2011). "Alan Richman Returns To New Orleans". GQ. Retrieved May 16, 2011.
  20. ^ Kathryn Shattuck (June 3, 2011), "'Treme' Sharpens Its Focus on Food", New York Times, retrieved July 5, 2020
  21. ^ Patrick Radden Keefe (February 6, 2017), "Anthony Bourdain's Moveable Feast", The New Yorker, retrieved July 5, 2020
  22. ^ Grohusko, Jacob "Jack" (1910). Jack's Manual (second ed.). New York: McClunn & Co. p. 84.
  23. ^ "Sazerac and Zazarack Cocktails". Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  24. ^ "The Vintage Drink. Zazarac Cocktail Drink Recipe". The Vintage Drink. Retrieved February 24, 2016.
  25. ^ Haigh, Ted (February 27, 2014). Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. Quarry Books. pp. 219–20. ISBN 978-1616734756. Retrieved August 24, 2016.