Sazerac Named Official Cocktail of New Orleans

July 16, 2008 | By | Comments (8)


It’s often said that the word "cocktail" originated in New Orleans. That it is derived from the French word coquetier, an egg cup that was used to serve spirited beverages in the Crescent City in the early 19th century. Whether New Orleans is the official home to the "cocktail" or not, a visit to NOLA (as the city’s affectionately called) proves, if anything, that they take their drinks seriously. And now, the city has been honored with its own official cocktail–the sazerac. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

The Louisiana legislature has just passed a bill, originally proposed by Senator Edwin Murray, naming the sazerac the official beverage of the city of New Orleans. And this weekend, during the city’s annual Tales of the Cocktail festival, it’s all things sazerac, from convivial toasts to absinthe and rye tastings to food/cocktail pairings.

Peychauds_2 Cousins Lally Brennan and Ti Adelaide Martin, proprietors of the legendary Commander’s Palace restaurant, have a personal affinity for the drink. While Ti might start an evening with a sazerac, Lally is more inclined to end her night with one. But this concoction of rye, Herbsaint (or absinthe), and Peychaud’s bitters packs a punch. As the ladies like to say, "Do have just one, as you won’t be nearly as attractive as you think you are after two."

Lally points out that Peychaud’s bitters are key. "Peychaud’s is New Orleans. If you don’t have Peychaud’s, you might as well not bother trying to make a sazerac." If you don’t live in New Orleans, that can be tough, since Peychaud’s is virtually impossible to find elsewhere. Thank goodness for internet commerce. Whether you live in Mississippi or beyond the Mason-Dixon line, you can have them shipped directly to you via the Buffalo Trace website.

Below is an excerpt from Ti and Lally’s recent book, In the Land of Cocktails, with a brief history of the drink, as well as their recipe:


We are Sazerac enthusiasts. Perhaps cocktails would have never caught on if the original one—the Sazerac—wasn’t such a perfect concoction.

The Sazerac is easy to make but hard to master. As with all cocktails, proportion and balance are important. We’ve had as many bad Sazeracs as good ones—even in our beloved New Orleans. It should be reddish orange in color. To our taste, Old Overholt rye whiskey or Sazerac are balanced and preferred, and in place of the original absinthe we like Herbsaint, which is not as intense as Pernod or Pastis. We use simple syrup in place of the traditional sugar cube, which most people don’t keep on hand anyway.

In the early 1800s, the Sazerac was originally made with Cognac and Peychaud’s Bitters, created by Antoine Peychaud. He named the drink for his favorite brand of Cognac from Limoges, France, the Sazerac-de-Forge-et-fils. In 1870, with Cognac harder to come by due to phylloxera in France, rye whiskey was substituted. Absinthe was banned in the United States in 1912, and hence Pernod or Herbsaint was substituted to coat the glass.

As young girls, we were mesmerized when Leroy, the Commander’s Palace bartender, held up a glass and twirled it to coat the inside with Herbsaint, the first step in making this classic cocktail.

Makes 1 cocktail

1 tablespoon Herbsaint

1 1/2 ounces rye whiskey, preferably Old Overholt or Sazerac rye

1/2 teaspoon simple syrup

4 to 5 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

2 dashes Angostura bitters

1 lemon twist with the white pith removed, for garnish

Pour the Herbsaint into a rocks glass and swirl to coat the inside. Discard any excess Herbsaint. Fill the glass with ice to chill.

Combine the rye, simple syrup and Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters in a cocktail shaker with ice. Cover and shake vigorously.

Discard the ice from the glass and strain the shaker mixture into the glass. Rub the rim of the glass with the lemon twist, add to the drink and serve immediately.


  1. cheryl

    Sounds fabulous!! NOLA is a great place, but I haven’t been back since Katrina. I’ve got to get myself down there again soon..

    July 18, 2008 at 2:44 pm
  2. Jennifer Cole

    Absinthe, frequently referred to as the Green Fairy, was banned before Prohibition. But, now, it once again legal to consume and available throughout the United States.
    A few brands to look out for: Lucid (the first one available in the U.S. that is made with the traditional Grande Wormwood herb), La Fee, Pernod 68, and Marteau.

    July 17, 2008 at 9:41 am
  3. db fan

    is absinthe only in new orleans? sounds amazing!

    July 17, 2008 at 9:22 am
  4. AJ in London

    Please keep me posted for when Peychaud delivers overseas!

    July 17, 2008 at 9:14 am
  5. Shelley Talbot

    Yes, A New Orleanian favorite!

    July 17, 2008 at 9:08 am
  6. Randolph Stafford

    Any cocktail that begins with brown water is appealing to me… and as of yet I have not found a creation to come out of NOLA that I do not like. Where y’at?

    July 17, 2008 at 8:38 am
  7. Melany Mullens

    Let’s go for a Sazerac tonight!!! I’m buyin –

    July 17, 2008 at 8:20 am
  8. Jennifer’s Ti Ti

    Can’t wait to try one, created by your sweet hands. Gulf Shores goodies provided by you were deeee-licious! Thanks for being my grand and such a food and drink gourmet!

    July 16, 2008 at 5:24 pm

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