I learned a lot about the cocktail culture when I went to New Orleans. I didn’t know much going in; I did a quick Google search with my wife to see if New Orleans was known for any specialty drinks I should try while down there and the Sazerac shot to the top of the list. While down in the city drinking Sazeracs at various bars, I learned quite a bit about this drink and how it made cocktail history.
History of the Cocktail
The Sazerac is credited in New Orleans as being the world’s first cocktail, but there are some disputes as to how the word “cocktail” came into usage. The story I heard was that down in the French Quarter, a drunken man tried to order a drink that came in the coquetier (French for egg cup), slurring into what sounded to the English-speaking patrons as “cocktail.” The term, however, dates back much further than this story, but I’d like to think there’s some intersection between the two versions.
History of the Sazerac
The drink was originally made with cognac and bitters, specifically, Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils cognac. Locally, in New Orleans, the bitters used were Antoine Peychaud’s Bitters. The cognac didn’t last long, as in the late 1800s, a Phylloxera outbreak in Europe stopped the import of the prized liquor. The solution to the mixing problem was to bring down Rye Whiskey from Kentucky to make up the difference, and since then, the use of Rye Whiskey has kind of stuck. One of the most famous New Orleans Sazerac lounges has to be the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel. The bar has a wonderful history, but I think it’s best left to the hotel to tell you that one.
Overall, it’s a very palatable drink, and very simple to make. I do prefer the Sazerac made with Cognac versus Rye Whiskey; it just has a smoother taste to it. Either way, if you’re down in New Orleans, you can’t go wrong with ordering a Sazerac.