Classic Cocktails meets Modern Distilling Series, Take 1 – Sazerac

  1. I am starting this cocktail series based on the classics. We’ll take a classic cocktail, we’ll use a few different recipes from my collection of books, from Imbibe magazine, and from other online sources. We’ll make an approximation of the classic, or the version I learned as a bartender, and then we’ll do some re-making of it with an ingredient from the new craft distilling movement.
  2. We’re starting with the Sazerac because it is the first classic cocktail I consumed, at Bar Deville, at the behest of my friend Molly. I had it AFTER playing soccer, and it changed my life forever. Since that fateful evening, I’ve now become a Bar Deville employee.
  3. The Sazerac version I’ve made for years now:

2 oz Rye Whiskey (Overholt is ok, Rittenhouse if you want some heat)
Barspoon of Demerara sugar syrup (2 parts sugar, 1 part water)
3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
lemon peel
Herbsaint

Chill glass.
Stir in a mixing glass the rye, bitters, and demerara.
Rinse the chilled glass with the Herbsaint.
Toss the herbsaint (into your mouth, don’t be wasteful you fool), then strain into the cocktail glass.
Express a lemon peel over the top, rub on the rim, and then drop into the glass.

This is a stiff concoction with Rittenhouse, as I made it now. I can see where recipes that suggest a 1/2 oz of simple syrup are cutting against the higher proof of many ryes. Do not use a 1/2 oz of demerara. It is entirely too much sugar. Don’t disrespect history like that.

One of the historical points with this cocktail is that it began life as a cognac based cocktail, and so I think it is important we play with that here. However, I do not have any beautiful Cognac in the house, and rarely do. I do, however, have some American brandy from Copper & Kings. I’ve become a big convert to what they’re doing at Copper & Kings in a category that, to be honest, no one outside of cocktail bartenders gives a damn about really. There’s some smart people behind Copper & Kings and I don’t do overt politics on The Boozy Beggar, so I will just say I hope this company stays independent and keeps innovating. I decided to use some of their flagship pot stilled brandy, which is my house brandy for use wherever brandy or cognac is called for (cognac is brandy made a specific way in a specific region of france, using specific ingredients).

Variation No. 1

1.5 oz Copper & Kings American Brandy
0.75 oz Rittenhouse Rye
barspoon, demerara syrup
3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
Herbsaint

Make as above.

Variation No. 2
1.5 oz Copper & Kings American Brandy
0.75 oz Rittenhouse Rye
barspoon, demerara syrup
3-4 dashes, Bitter Truth Creole Bitters
Herbsaint

In Variation No. 2, I ditched the classic Peychaud’s for a craft movement bitters company. Bitter Truth puts out great stuff, and both their E**X**R and Apricot Liqueur are staples in my home bar now. Their Creole Bitters fit into the Peychaud’s niche, but explode with a lot more spice and complexity. For Variation No. 3, I got a little weird.

Variation No. 3
1.5 oz Copper & Kings American Brandy
0.75 oz Rittenhouse Rye
barspoon, demerara syrup
3-4 dashes, Bitter Truth Creole Bitters
El Massaya replaces the Herbsaint, an Arak from Lebanon, distilled from grapes and macerated with aniseed from Syria.

We’ll come back to the Sazerac again soon, looking at how some new American ryes play in the cocktail, and maybe use an American abinsthe for the rinse even.

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