I love the Sazerac cocktail. At one point, I embarked upon a project to experiment with all the variables, and at length I eventually came up with a formulation that I could not surpass. Following up on an exchange that took place with BrooksNYC on another thread, I thought I'd share my recipe with the hope that others might also share their own.
THE GIZMO SAZERAC:
In advance, prepare a simple syrup. I get the best result in Sazeracs using Turbinado sugar in the simple syrup. The syrup can be stored for several days in a glass jelly jar in the refrigerator.
Also in advance, place an old fashioned glass in the freezer to chill. The thicker the bottom of the glass, the better (to retain the chill).
Begin the preparation of the cocktail by placing a small amount of Lucid absinthe in the chilled glass. Roll the glass to coat the interior and discard any excess that remains.
Place 1/2 teaspoon of the simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add four or five dashes of Peychaud's Bitters. Add two ounces of Bulleit 95 Rye, and 1/2 ounce of Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye. Fill the shaker halfway with ice cubes. Stir (don't shake) for 20 seconds or so, until thoroughly chilled. Strain into the chilled glass that has been rinsed in absinthe.
Using a fresh round lemon, cut a twist over the glass. Ideally you will get a tiny drop of lemon oil to fall and hit the surface of the cocktail. Drape the twist over the rim as garnish.
To take this cocktail all the way back to the original 19th Century mix of ingredients, use 2 1/2 oz of cognac in place of the rye. I favor Hennessey "Privilege" VSOP for the brandy version. Overall, I prefer the more modern rye version, but the occasional historic brandy version makes a tasty change of pace.
For the rye version, an alternative that is surprisingly good (and more economical): subsitute one ounce of Old Overholt plus one ounce of Bulleit, in place of the two ounces of Bulleit.
In my experiments, I found that every variable makes a big difference to the end result. I don't like a Sazerac to have cloying sweetness, so I use less sugar than most recipes call for. In my opinion, there is an inherent sweetness in the absinthe that is almost enough on its own.
I have tried Herbsaint (both the modern and vintage styles) in place of absinthe, and it is very good, but I think that absinthe has better flavor and the correct heavier viscosity to cling to the glass. Lucid has the best flavor of many brands that I have tried. Pacifique is a somewhat distant second.
I tried many of the small batch ryes as well as the mainstays. Bulleit 95 Rye has a smooth finish with a nice "fruity" depth, and the uncut/unfiltered Thomas H. Handy adds the right note of complexity and smokiness (plus added "kick," as the uncut whiskey tends to be very high proof). The Handy is expensive, but a little goes a long way in this recipe, since I use one part Handy to four parts Bulleit 95.
Getting the little drop of lemon oil to hit the surface of the cocktail makes for a wonderful aroma as you bring the glass up to taste. A very fresh unblemished round lemon has the best chance of yielding the desired result.
If you make Sazeracs at home, I hope you'll share your secrets. If you have a favorite bar in New Orleans for Sazeracs, I hope you'll let us know what makes their Sazerac the best in town.
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