A few weeks ago I was going to make a sazerac for my classic cocktail. But upon doing the research on the cocktail’s history, I discovered that the cocktail not only originated in, but is also the cocktail of New Orleans. So since G and I were headed there for vacation, I thought I’d wait until I returned from the trip to do the post. And I’m so happy I did. Not only did we have several sazeracs in the city where they originated, but we even sipped on a couple inside the actual Sazerac Bar. After tasting my share and hearing the history of the drink, I can see why the sazerac is the cocktail of New Orleans.
See, Antoine Amadie Peychaud moved to New Orleans in the late 1700’s and is given credit for inventing the Sazerac in the 1830s. Upon moving to New Orleans, the Creole apothecary, opened a drugstore called Pharmacie Peychaud. Like many “chemists” of his day, Peychaud sold his own patent medicine: Peychaud’s Bitters, to relieve his clients’ ailments. The “cocktail” became quite popular among friends and family. Peychaud named the drink after the Sazerac cognac which was the original liquor used in the cocktail. Today rye whiskey is used, though no one’s really sure when or why the change was made.
While the cocktail has been around since the early 1800’s, the Sazerac Bar wasn’t created until 1938. Sure the New Orleans Roosevelt Hotel in which the Sazerac Bar is located has been around since the mid 1800’s and there was a bar inside, but the bar didn’t take on the Sazerac name until much later. Although Sazerac cognac hasn’t been used in the cocktail in decades, the bar still pays an annual fee to the Sazerac Company for the use of the name.
As you can see, it’s absolutely beautiful inside and so much history. There are four murals around the bar that were painted between 1938 and 1939 by Paul Ninas and are now worth over two million dollars. There’s a bullet hole in the wall that has several different theories as to how it got there, including an attempt on Huey Long.
Then there’s my favorite story: on September 26th, 1949 a large group of women stormed the bar so they could each have a cocktail. Evidently before that date, women weren’t allowed to drink in bars. But from that date on, women were allowed inside the Sazerac. And now, every year on that date, women from the area recreate the event, complete with appropriate 40’s attire. Yes, I want to attend… just once.
So if you’re heading to New Orleans, walk across Canal Street and have a drink inside the Sazerac Bar. You’re not only in for a delicious cocktail, you’re in for one hell of a history lesson.
- 1 sugar cube
- 3 dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters
- 1-1/2 ounces rye whiskey
- 1/4 ounce of Herbsaint or Absinthe
Pack an Old Fashioned glass with ice.
Place a sugar cube in a second Old Fashioned glass. Add the Bitters and crush the sugar cube. Add the whiskey.
Empty the ice from the first glass and coat with the Herbsaint. Pour the whiskey mixture into the glass with the Herbsaint, garnish with a lemon peel and serve.