Thank you to Tim O’Hara for sharing his recipe with the office.

As we are preparing for the upcoming Thanksgiving, this Friday we are going to sit back and relax with a favorite cocktail – the Sazerac. Considered by many America’s first cocktail, we’ll share a little history and our favorite recipe.


The Sazerac Hero

In 1838 the French Quarter of New Orleans witnessed the opening of an apothecary shop by one Antoine Amedie Peychaud.  Here was served a stomach ailment remedy consisting of brandy and a house concoction of bitter gentian root soaked with botanicals and spices in high-proof alcohol.


Advertising card of L.E. Jung and his alligators promoting Peychaud’s Bitters

After hours at the lodge, you would find the brandy mixture being served in a porcelain egg cup known as a coquetier, what would eventually give way to the familiar term “cocktail.” It was here that Peychaud created the basis for New Orleans’s first cocktail.


Antique bottle of Peychaud’s bitters potion

Meanwhile a local New Orleans businessman Sewel Taylor opened a number of coffee houses including one in particular that mixed French Sazerac-de-Forge et fils cognac with Peychaud’s bitters potion.

cognac-sazeracThis certain coffee house became known as the Sazerac Coffee House and was eventually purchased by Mr. Thomas Handy.  It was he who brilliantly substituted American rye whiskey for the French brandy and introduced a hint of absinthe, thus creating the official recipe for New Orleans’s first and signature cocktail, the Sazerac.

Thomas H Handy Rye 1

Thomas Handy Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey from Buffalo Trace Antique Collection

 Thomas Handy, however, is not the only one to thank for the introduction of rye whiskey to the Sazerac.  Between 1875 and 1879, total French wine and cognac production fell by two-thirds thanks to an American aphid ruining the vineyard roots across Europe.  With cognac less accessible, what was readily available in New Orleans at the time was straight rye – as it was traditionally floated down the Mississippi from distillers in Western Pennsylvania.

A bottle of St. George Sprits' Absinthe Verte is shown in the tasting room at St. George Spirits in Alameda, California July 31, 2008. The first U.S. distiller to sell absinthe, long-banned spirit affectionately called "the green fairy," St. George Spirits produces 6,000 bottles per batch and is already on it's seventh batch of its Absinthe Verte since a nearly 100-year ban on its sale in the U.S. and parts of Europe was lifted last December. Picture taken July 31, 2008. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES)

A bottle of St. George Spirits Absinthe Verte and the alternative Herbsaint. St. George Spirits produces Absinthe Verte since a nearly 100-year ban in the U.S. and parts of Europe was lifted.

Today the Sazerac can properly be mixed with an absinthe substitute anise liqueur known as Herbsaint (from the French Creole “Herb Sainte” or sacred herb).  For the sake of tradition however, our recipe will call for absinthe in the historic fashion.  We would like to share this historic cocktail recipe for you to sip and indulge in over 150 years of carefully crafted liquid tradition.


The Sazerac

Fill an Old-Fashioned glass with ice and water, and set aside to chill.

In a 16-oz mixing glass combine:

1 tsp. 2:1 simple syrup

3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

1 dash Angostura bitters

2 oz. Thomas H Handy Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey – Buffalo Trace Antique Collection


Fill the mixing glass with ice and stir contents for 20 seconds until well-chilled.

Drain ice water from the chilled Old-Fashioned glass, and rinse the glass with ¼ oz. St. George Absinthe Verte (or substitute Herbsaint)

Strain contents of mixing glass into the absinthe-rinsed Old-Fashioned glass.

Twist a lemon peel over the drink to express the oils, and discard peel.


Serve…or enjoy this boozy taste of American history yourself.