The Sazerac is the definitive New Orleans cocktail (though the meaning of "definitive" in this context is rather complicated since there are relatively few places in town where a Sazerac may be safely ordered and plenty where they would stare at you blankly). It's the elegant, refined cousin of the Old Fashioned, and it's quite lovely.
My favorite drinks are those whose character is defined at least as much by how they are made as by what they are made with, (think of the Martini: the ingredients couldn't be simpler; it's all in the doing.), and the steps to make a Sazerac are wonderfully baroque. You will need the following ingredients:
- Rye whiskey. I use Old Overholt. (You may substitute bourbon.)
- Herbsaint. A local pastis akin to Ricard or Pernod. (The latter are perfectly adequate substitutes.)
- Bitters, preferably Angostura and Peychaud. (Peychaud is another local item, an orange flavored bitters, and I'm not sure how available it is elsewhere. If you can't find it, skip it.)
- Simple syrup.
- A twist of lemon.*
- Fill a rocks glass to the rim with ice. Set aside and allow to chill.
- Fill a cocktail shaker** with ice. Add a good pour of whiskey (about 2 oz.), several dashes of bitters, and a modest splash of simple syrup (no more than a tablespoon—the goal is a gentle sweetness, nothing cloying). Stir the contents until frost forms on the outside. (If you've got a proper cocktail stirrer, you're all set. I use a plastic chopstick.)
- Empty the ice from the rocks glass. Pour in a splash of Herbsaint, tip the glass to the side, and roll it gently around, lining the entire glass. Pour out the excess liquid.
- Strain the liquids from the cocktail shaker into the glass.
- Twist the lemon twist over the glass, spritzing it with a tiny mist of lemon oil, run the twist around the rim of the glass, and drop it in the cocktail.
- Place on a cloth cocktail napkin monogrammed with your initials, and serve.
* I'm honing in on the perfect twist. Back in my old work-a-day bartending days, at the beginning of the evening we would peel an entire lemon and then just slice the peel into narrow strips. These days I take a paring knife or vegetable peeler and slice just the outer layer of the peel off in a long spiral down around the fruit. The result is a thinner (it's only the exterior zest of the fruit we're interested in), broader, longer, rougher hewn twist that I'm quite liking.
** Or a second glass, though you'll need one of those little hand held strainer-thingies.