Friday, 8 April 2011

The Sazerac

I was chatting with a mate of mine the other day about the unnecessary amount of "big ego's" in the bar industry. Sure, i accept with the many cocktail competitions and challenges around the world today, it's a  competitive industry amongst bartenders. But I'm not talking about cocktail competitions, I'm talking about the things that some bartenders do to give themselves, what i like to call "Bar street-cred". Please explain??... OK, for example a bartender walks into a bar and orders a classic cocktail, like the sazerac, to try and test the bartender or if it's not to test the barman, it's to portray to the staff that they know their drinks, by ordering a classic. Lame i know, but believe me, i see it happen. To me it doesn't prove anything, I've had other bartenders order stuff like this from me, expecting me to give them some street cred, but i don't buy into it. I'll say one last thing before i get off my 'soap-box', the bar industry is full of too many big ego's as it is, an if bartenders would stop trying so hard to compete against each other and learn from one another, we would all become better at what we do and therefore making the industry better for the customer.

So I've said my little bit... but now lets get stuck into the sazerac. There are many drinks that bartenders order to give them "street-cred",  but the main one that comes to my mind is the sazerac. I decided to feature this classic cocktail on my blog, because I'll admit, I don't know much about it's origins. i know whats in it and how to make it, but i have no idea of where it came from and how it was first invented, so it was exciting for me to learn something new.

The story of the sazerac starts around 1850. An American bar owner, Sewell T. Taylor sold his bar and began working in the liquor importing business. He turned to France and began importing a brand of cognac called "Sazerac-de-forge-et-fils". As Taylor began to sell an import this cognac throughout America,  another bartender, Aaron Bird, decided to take over a bar and name it "The Sazerac House". Here is where Bird is said to have created the "Sazarac cocktail", using Sewell Taylors brand of imported cognac, absinthe and sugar, along with Peychauds bitters. Down the street from the Sazerac House, was the local drug store, owned by a man called Antoine Amedie Peychaud. Peychaud is the creator of the famous "Peychauds Bitters" which is best described as a light and sweet bitters. This is an important ingredient in the sazerac. Around 1870, The Sazerac House was taken over by Thomas Handy. Handy was forced to change the ingredient of the french cognac, to a rye whiskey, due to the Phylloxera (which was basically like a type of insect) epidemic which was sweeping France at the time. These bugs were eating and destroying all the wine crops, grapes and tainting all the produce, so the cognac used in the sazerac was unavailable for that period of time. So from then on the sazerac has been served with rye whiskey.

There are many subtle variations on this drink, but I'll share with you how i serve my sazeracs.  Start with a rocks (old fashioned) glass, pour 10ml absinthe into the glass and roll the glass, coating as much of the side as you can with the absinthe. Once all of the glass is coated, you can discard the absinthe. This process is called rinsing. After the 'absinthe rinse', place a sugar cube in the bottom of the glass and cover the cube with a few dashes of Peychauds bitters. Crush this sugar cube and get it as broken up and dissolved as you can. I sometimes like to add a dash of sugar syrup to add to the sweetness, but this is up to you. I have a bit of a sweet tooth, so i like my drinks sweet.  Once sugar is dissolved, you can either add 60ml rye whiskey of 60ml Cognac. I like to give the drink as many flavours of possible and give the drink a bit of a 3rd dimension, so i personally like to use 30ml of both rye whiskey and cognac. Now add ice, and stir... and keep stirring as long as you need to dilute the cocktail to your liking. Lastly, garnish with some lemon zest, and enjoy. Some of you might notice that this is very similar to an "Old Fashioned". That's because the sazerac was inspired by the old fashioned cocktail.

I hope you enjoy your sazerac, and remember, only order the sazerac if that's what you really want, not  for the street cred.  ;-)

In a rocks glass:
10ml Absinthe
1 sugar cube
(dash of sugar syrup optional)
Dash of Peychauds Bitters
30ml Rye Whiskey
30ml Cognac
Add ice and stir
Garnish with lemon zest

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