Almost before the word cocktail became engrained in the American lexicon, there was the Sazerac. Derived from the most basic beginnings of a cocktail, its creation is based around offsetting the flavor of a strong spirit, rye whiskey in this case, with sugar and Peychaud’s bitters, resulting in a complex and contemplative drink.
Though quintessentially New Orleans in origin, takes on the Sazerac can be found around the country — with the best bars don’t stray too far from the original. New York’s Minetta Tavern offers a unique maple cordial addition to their Sazerac (as a nod to their chef’s Canadian roots), which refrains from unnecessarily sweetening the drink and instead darkens the drink’s character just slightly. Minetta is also known for having one of the best steaks in NYC, a $140 Côte de Boeuf, reminding me that while many would pair a glass of red wine with this dish, I might reach for a Sazerac instead.
The idea of pairing cocktails with food may seem unconventional to some, but consider how the Sazerac’s assertive and spicy rye kick, sweetened ever so slightly and laced with the oils of a lemon and anise from absinthe, allows it to cut through the fat from red meat and other rich dishes.
While the Sazerac is one of those classics that is nearly impossible to improve upon, experimenting with subtle changes to typical sugar-cube sweetener, such as using maple syrup or perhaps a small dose of liqueur, is a great way to make this drink your own and still preserve its original integrity, as well as that of your pairing.
- 1 3/4 oz. Rittenhouse rye whiskey
- 1/2 oz. Demerara
- 1/4 oz. Sortilège maple liqueur
- 3 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 oz. Absinthe, used as rinse
- Chill a rocks glass by adding ice and water. Set aside.
- Take a chilled mixing glass and dash in bitters, then add rye whiskey, demerara, and maple liqueur.
- Stir ingredients with ice for 10 to 15 seconds until desired dilution is reached. Discard ice from chilled rocks glass and coat inside lightly with absinthe.
- Strain mixing glass contents into chilled rocks glass and express oils from a lemon peel over top, then discard.
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