June 24, 2009

Since I can't attend Tales of the Cocktail, I'll just have one of these.

In a few weeks, cocktail enthusiasts and historians will descend on New Orleans en masse to attend "Tales of the Cocktail," a five-day love letter to all things mixological. Being the poor boy I am, I will not be attending, though I'll be following the events that are summarized online with a great deal of interest and professional jealousy.

Meanwhile, I decided to mix up a drink of old New Orleans tonight, the Sazerac. It's gone through a few changes over the years...first made with cognac, but now more frequently with rye whiskey. Absinthe was used to coat the inside of the glass, though for a while, until it was legal again, a mixture of Green Chartreuse and Pernod were often used, or a New Orleans spirit called Herbsaint. And Peychaud's bitters were always a key ingredient.

Now, I don't have any absinthe yet, nor Herbsaint, nor Green Chartreuse, so what I've prepared tonight may charitably be termed a "poor man's Sazerac," but despite that, it's still possible to glimpse the combination of flavors that makes this libation so interesting.

1/4 oz absinthe or pastis, to rinse
1 bar spoon simple syrup
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
2 oz rye whiskey

In a mixing glass, over ice, build the syrup, bitters and rye, stirring to combine. In an Old Fashioned glass, swirl the absinthe/pastis to coat the inside of the glass, discarding the excess (into your mouth is not a bad disposal method). Strain the syrup/bitters/rye mixture into the Old Fashioned glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.
The Pernod imparts a top note of licorice, but it's almost smelled rather than tasted in the drink. The sweetness of the bitters, the spiciness of the rye and the citrus zing of the lemon twist all vie for attention, but in the end, they all blend into an impossible to describe taste, but one that would be very easy to grow attached to. Three thumbs up for this drink, and, should I manage to procure Herbsaint or buck up and buy a bottle of absinthe, I will gladly revisit this to see how the ideal ingredients further enhance this drink.

(Special Note: in the photo below, you will see that there's a strip of lemon zest in the glass. For the love of all that is good and proper, don't drop it into your drink! Just squeeze it over the drink to express the oils and then toss the peel. Learn from my mistakes!)


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