Tag Archives: Sazerac Cocktail

Cherry Bounce Update #2

Two months ago I posted about my cherry bounce experiments and updated that about ten days later with my first update, concerning the second experiment. I was supposed to wait three months before bottling. Well, that didn’t happen. I figured two was enough. So, today I decanted my mash into 200ml bottles and tasted it.

There were two recipes being tested. The first was based on one supposedly from Martha Washington. It called for cooking the cherries and sugar for 20 minutes and using rye whiskey. The second came from a friend, which was his mother’s recipe. It called for cooking only enough to dissolve the sugar and used vodka for the alcohol. Both recipes called for fresh sour cherries, which I did not have and used dried tart cherries instead. Neither recipe made mention of the sugar, but if you have been following my rants here, you will know that I have a fondness for turbinado sugar, which is sugar that is much less refined than white sugar. It is brown and granular with large grains and retains more of the molasses flavor. I especially like it in my Sazerac Cocktail recipe.

I strained out the cherry mash from both of my cherry bounce experiments and transferred the “juice” to bottles for future consumption. Unlike my dad, who was the inspiration for this experiment, I elected not to dispose of the strained cherry mash by bundling it up in cheesecloth and attempting to toss it onto the roof of the building on the other side of Bourbon Street. (This was to hide his foray into adult beverages at age 12. It didn’t make it, by the way.) Instead, I saved it in jars in the refrigerator. Janis plans to use it over ice cream—and probably a few other things she will eventually dream up. In both cases, the liquid came out a muddy reddish color because I didn’t strain it through a fine mesh, only a colander.

Now for the good part, the testing.

The Vodka Recipe – Both recipes had very intense flavors and leaned to the syrupy side of a liqueur, which is what it is supposed to be. This one much favored the taste of the cherries, and the alcohol seemed a bit stronger than in the other. I did not use an expensive vodka because I have very strong opinions on that matter. Since, by law, vodka must not have s discernable taste or flavor, I would never use an expensive vodka in a drink where its subtle (and expensive) attributes could not be appreciated. And this was such a case. This recipe was very drinkable but intense enough you could possibly use it in various cocktail recipes as a flavor ingredient.

The Rye Recipe – This one also had intense flavors but the cherry flavor was a bit less intense than in the Vodka Recipe. The use of rye whiskey also gave it a much a more complex flavor. There was a lot more going on in your mouth than the simpler and very intense cherry flavor of the Vodka Recipe. The rye whiskey came through in a very subtle way that complimented the flavor of the cherries. It was not an in-your-face whiskey experience at all.

Conclusions – While both recipes are very drinkable, and it is quite probable that some would prefer one over the other either way, my choice leans heavily to the more complex Rye Recipe. If I were using the cherry bounce as a flavor element in some cocktail, I might favor the Vodka Recipe for that purpose. Otherwise, for sipping, the Rye Recipe wins for me.

What next? – We scale up the recipe for a larger batch. I will make the Rye Recipe with a few adjustments to my test version. For one, I will not cook the mash for twenty minutes. At twenty minutes, the sugars were beginning to turn into syrup. I think ten minutes might work just fine.

Other experiments? – My dad almost certainly used a different recipe from these two. Unfortunately, he isn’t around to ask about that, and we can find no record of his original recipe. One thing that makes me suspect his was different is I am pretty sure he did not use added alcohol like the two recipes above. The reason I believe that is he had fermentation going on in his version. Once he corked the bottle too tightly, and it blew the top off, scaring the wits out of our maid who was washing dishes right next to it. The added alcohol seems to inhibit that because it kills any yeast present, preventing fermentation. These recipes would more accurately be called “infusions.” If I can come up with a recipe that I think is closer to my dad’s I will run another experiment.

Meanwhile, I will enjoy what I have so far. Cheers!

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Filed under Family History, Growing Up

The Perfect Sazerac Cocktail

SazeracCocktailThis is a continuation of my recent post A Short History of the Sazerac Cocktail.

The Sazeracs Ethan drank in The Last Day of Forever and An Eternity of Four Years were not as sophisticated as the modern versions. Sazeracs in the 1850s and 1860s were probably only Sazerac Cognac, a couple dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters and some sugar. While ice was available then, the drink was more likely served at room temperature.

The modern Sazerac is not an easy drink to make and requires a bit of ritual. While a well-made Sazerac is a delightful drink, a poorly made Sazerac is truly awful. Many bars and restaurants in New Orleans make good Sazeracs, and some not so good. A safe bet to have one is at the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel. You can use theirs to gauge what a good Sazerac should taste like. Or, make one according to my recipe.

The original (modern) Sazerac consists of five simple ingredients: Sazerac Rye Whiskey (I use Sazerac Rye 6YO), simple syrup, Peychaud’s Bitters, a sliver of lemon peel (the yellow part, not the pulpy white part or the juice), and good quality ice. You will also need two heavy-bottomed, Old Fashioned glasses, a teaspoon to measure and stir with, a two-ounce jigger, and a cocktail strainer of some sort. There are variations on this ingredient list; some use Angostura Bitters along with the Peychaud’s. While that is a common practice these days, that is not the original (modern) recipe.

You must prepare ahead. One of the two glasses needs to go into the freezer for at least 30 minutes to chill down. In a pinch, you can pack it with ice and let it chill that way, but the freezer method is much preferred. You must also prepare the simple syrup far enough ahead so it can come to room temperature or even be chilled. I make small batches and store mine in a jar in the refrigerator. They say it keeps for up to a week, but I have kept it a bit longer.

Lane’s Sazerac Cocktail Recipe Secret #1: Most make simple syrup using white refined sugar, but I have recently experimented with Organic Turbinado Raw Sugar, which is partially refined sugar. It retains some of the natural molasses flavor of raw sugar. That little hint of molasses adds a wonderful subtle bouquet and flavor to the Sazerac. I make all my Sazeracs with Turbinado Raw Sugar simple syrup these days.

Simple syrup is easy to make, but you must be careful or you will have a sticky mess to clean up. I make mine in the jar I am going to store it in, and I suggest you use a cooking container that you will not fill to more than one fourth. (Why in a moment.) Mix one part Turbinado Raw Sugar (or white sugar) with one part bottled or filtered water by volume. I usually make only a two-tablespoon batch (two tablespoons sugar and two tablespoons of water). Using only a teaspoon of simple syrup in each Sazerac, this is more than enough for my relatively infrequent needs. Mix it as best you can, but much of the sugar will not dissolve. Next, the mix goes into the microwave or on the stove. I use the microwave because it is faster.

VERY IMPORTANT: You must not leave the cooking simple syrup unattended. Once it starts boiling, it is like a volcano erupting, only much faster. You must stop the cooking before it erupts all over the inside of your microwave! This is why I suggest the total contents not exceed one fourth of the cooking container.

Cooking time will depend on how much is being made. Stop the cooking as soon as it begins boiling. Take it out and stir it to dissolve the sugar. One trip through the microwave will probably not be enough to dissolve all the sugar. Stick it back in and bring it to a boil again. It will boil sooner this time. Take it out and stir. Make sure all the sugar is completely dissolved. Twice usually does it for me, but if a third trip into the microwave is needed, then do it. You can, of course, make simple syrup the old fashioned way in a pot on the stove. Bring it to a very low boil and stir as it cooks. Once all the sugar dissolves, take it off the heat to cool.

If made with Turbinado Raw sugar, the resulting simple syrup will have the color of motor oil. That is because of the molasses content of the sugar. This has to cool before you use it. Once it reaches room temperature, I cap it and stick it into the refrigerator to be used when needed. It will hold for at least a week.

The third ingredient that needs pre-prep is the lemon peel and use good fresh lemons. As mentioned, you want only the yellow part of the peeling and none of the white pulpy part. You are after only the oils in that yellow peel. Use a sharp knife and carefully shave off a strip about a quarter to a half-inch wide and an inch to two inches long. You can experiment with size. I prefer a larger peel.

Lane’s Sazerac Cocktail Recipe Secret #2: Recently, I started experimenting with orange peel instead of lemon peel, and I like the very subtle flavor the orange peel adds. Lemon peel is traditional, but try both and see which you prefer. Whether lemon or orange, you need good quality fruit to harvest the peel from.

Gather your ingredients and get ready to build a fabulous Sazerac. Everything should be at hand and ready to grab except the frozen glass, which I leave in the freezer until the last possible moment.

Step 1 – In the unfrozen Old Fashioned glass, add one teaspoon of your simple syrup, three dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters, and two ounces of Sazerac Rye Whiskey. I use Sazerac Rye 6YO (SPAR did the package), but their Antique Collection Sazerac Rye 18YO, the winner of American Whiskey of the Year (SPAR did this package, too), makes a Sazerac to die for. However, you may have to arrange bank financing to buy a bottle of the 18YO, assuming you can even find it. It is usually released in October and gone before the end of the month. If you want a bottle, make friends with your local liquor store owner. (You might want to consider bribing them.) And expect to pay above MSRP. It is that good and that popular.

Next, fill the Old Fashioned glass containing the ingredients to the top with a good quality clear ice and stir (not shake) vigorously until the ice is partially melted. This usually takes about ten seconds. I stop when I see the ice has melted enough the cocktail is nearly covering it. Obviously, more melt means a weaker drink. Experiment and find your perfect melt level.

Step 2 – Now, you must move fast! Retrieve the frozen glass from the freezer (or dump the ice from it if you chilled it that way). I usually have my wife hovering near the freezer awaiting my call for the glass. Best to do the following over a sink, because you might spill some of the Herbsaint. Put about a tablespoon or less of Herbsaint into the frozen glass. Rotate the glass so the Herbsaint coats all around the inside of the glass as far up to the rim as you can get it. (This is where you are likely to spill some.) Work fast; you want that glass to stay cold! Dump any remaining Herbsaint out. You want only a hint of the Herbsaint remaining in the glass. Too much will ruin the drink.

Step 3 – Using the cocktail strainer, strain the mixed cocktail into the frozen Herbsaint–coated glass. Some drink it “on the rocks.” That is not the original, but if that is “your perfect Sazerac,” go for it.

Step 4 – Wipe the rim of the glass with the lemon (or orange) peel then twist the peel over the drink to squeeze out some of the oils. I toss it in for good measure, but that is not the original. Some say never toss it in but hook it over the rim of the glass as a garnish giving off a citrus aroma as you sip the drink.

Step 5 – After all that work, you must be tired? Head for your favorite recliner and rest from your efforts while you enjoy your perfect Sazerac Cocktail.

I think I hear a Sazerac calling me now?

The Sazerac Cocktail name is a trademark of the Sazerac Company of New Orleans.

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Filed under An Eternity of Four Years, Catahoula Books, Last Day of Forever

A Short History of the Sazerac Cocktail

Both The Last Day of Forever and An Eternity of Four Years mention a drink called the “Sazerac” but give only minimal information about how it is made. I am going to boast that I make the finest Sazerac in the world, maybe even the Universe.

But first, in the interest of full disclosure: The Sazerac Company of New Orleans is one of my clients at Spar, Inc. In fact, the man who owns the Sazerac Company and the five distilleries that Sazerac owns, starting with the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, KY, plus two others in Kentucky, another in Virginia, and one in Canada, also owns SPAR, Inc. I have worked for SPAR since I got out of the Air Force in 1973. Started as a graphic designer, and now I am the general manager and creative director. SPAR designed most of the packages for the Sazerac Company, such as Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Sazerac Rye Whisky, Herbsaint, W.L. Weller, Old Charter, Elmer T. Lee, Nikolai Vodka, and a ton more. You get the picture?

So, I have a financial interest in the Sazerac Company, so to speak. They generate my paycheck. But that isn’t why I mentioned the drink in my story. I mention it because the Sazerac Cocktail is such an integral and beautiful part of New Orleans history. It was created here, and its ancestry goes all the way back to the eighteenth century when Antoine Amedee Peychaud, a refugee from the slave uprising in Haiti, landed in New Orleans in about 1795 with his family recipe for bitters and eventually set up shop as an apothecary.

CoquetierAs the story goes, Peychaud served shots of brandy laced with his bitters in a little double-ended eggcup called in the French a cocquetier. Legend has it the term “cocktail” comes from the Americans arriving in New Orleans after the Louisiana Purchase, tripping over the unfamiliar French word, and anglicizing it. To be fair, that is under dispute. Some claim the term “cocktail,” describing a mixture of whiskey, bitters, and sugar, came into usage around 1800 before Peychaud started serving his coquetiers, but I am sticking to the New Orleans version.

The Sazerac name came from the brandy that was originally used to make the drink. That would be Sazerac Cognac Brandy imported from Sazerac des Forges et Fils in France. That Sazerac Company did exist until fairly recently. Evidently, they have folded, because I cannot find them on the internet anymore.

People in New Orleans always seem to do things just a little differently. For example, we had lots of coffee houses back in the nineteenth century, only they weren’t really coffee houses. Oh, they served some coffee, usually laced with brandy or rum and later American bourbon, but they were, in reality, saloons. By 1859 there were 204 saloons coffee houses in New Orleans. In the early nineteenth century, New Orleans entered its coffee house gem period, with owners naming their saloons coffee houses after various precious stones. Each new saloon coffee house tried to top the other by selecting a more valuable gemstone for its name. One named the “Gem” opened in 1851. The Gem featured the Sazerac, as did most other saloons coffee houses in New Orleans, but this one became famous. It was located in the first block of Royal Street with another entrance on Exchange Alley. Its name was eventually changed to the Sazerac Coffee House. This is where Ethan with Morgan and later his friends, when he enlisted in Wheat’s Battalion, shared many Sazeracs. Don’t bother to look for it, because it isn’t there anymore. The Sazerac Bar eventually moved into the Roosevelt Hotel and remains there to this day. The Sazerac Bar is not owned by the Sazerac Company.

Originally, the Sazerac was made with Sazerac brandy and Peychaud’s Bitters, but American rye whiskey began replacing the brandy around 1870 because of the phylloxera epidemic in Europe that devastated the vineyards of France, making brandy scarce (brandy is made from grapes). Kentucky had been settled by many of Scottish origin and they were converting their corn crops into whiskey, because it was easier to move whiskey to market than corn. Packed in barrels, Kentucky whiskey made its long trip in flatboats down the Mississippi to New Orleans. Storing the whiskey in barrels and the long trip actually aided its flavor, and the product that arrived in New Orleans was less like the raw fiery spirit that left Kentucky. About the same time, a bit of absinthe was added to the recipe of the Sazerac, and the recipe was sealed until the 1930s when Herbsaint, a New Orleans product, came into common usage in the Sazerac.

Herbsaint Absinthe was produced using a recipe ­­­­New Orleans native Marion Legendre brought back from his service in France during World War I. Legendre began producing his Herbsaint during the mid-thirties and ran afoul of government regs that had banned absinthe back in 1912. He was forced to change his recipe to suit the government bureaucrats. Only recently has absinthe reappeared in America again, and that is only because it was discovered the law banning absinthe was written in a way that actually allowed its production as long as the amount of wormwood, a botanical, was below a specified amount, and absinthe’s wormwood content is well below that point. With that, the Sazerac Company, owners of the Herbsaint brand, dug into their archives and came up with Legendre’s original formula. The Original Herbsaint is back (and SPAR did the retro package).

The Sazerac Cocktail, now enjoying something of a revival, is served in bars and restaurants all over New Orleans and many other cites, as well. But I must warn you. Not everyone makes a good Sazerac, and a poorly made Sazerac is truly awful, usually because they put in too much absinthe. But I am going to tell you how to make a good one, in fact, a perfect Sazerac Cocktail. You will have to wait for the next post to get my “secret” recipe.

Wikipedia absinthe page.

Absinthe deserves its own post. It is featured in the opening chapter of An Eternity of Four Years, and will get that post eventually.

Coquetier photo credit: Coyau / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

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Filed under An Eternity of Four Years, Catahoula Books, History Lessons, Last Day of Forever