The Sazerac Cocktail Gets a Sassy Makeover

It is fitting that we photographed the “Sasserac” in the Culinary Vegetable Institute library. It’s a literary drink, after all. A play on a traditional Sazerac cocktail, the touch of absinthe in this Southern favorite connects it with writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and Edgar Allen Poe, as well as artists including Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gaugin.

While the artsy set typically took their absinthe straight, laced with only a few drops of water and a dissolved sugar cube to cut the bitterness, bartenders in New Orleans circa 1840 found a new avenue for the heady elixir. They cut the absinthe content back to a mere wash inside a chilled glass, muddled a sugar cube with a few dashes of bitters (preferably Peychaud’s), followed by a healthy pour of French brandy. And the Sazerac cocktail was born.

Switching it Up

While the original Sazerac was named for the French Sazerac de Forge et Fils brandy preferred by NOLA bartenders, Our CVI Mixologist opted for Scotch when developing her sassafras-infused version. “A heavy, heavy dose of Scotch,” she said.

For a unique signature twist, we reached for The Chef’s Garden’s root beer leaf to draw out the absinth’s anise flavor.

“I have an absinthe rinse in the glass,” she said. “Instead of a sugar cube I’m using a root beer leaf syrup. I blended root beer leaf with simple syrup, then fine strained it. For bitters I have a house-made sassafras sarsaparilla and root beer leaf tincture.”

Old School With a Twist

Add the Scotch, stir with ice and strain into a chilled old-fashioned glass and you’ve got what we call “a good, solid drink.”

“It’s kind of an older-school drink; It’s simple. It tastes like root beer from all those tinctures, but it’s all Scotch.”

To further deepen the inherent masculinity of the old-school cocktail, it was shrouded with a glass dome just before serving to capture the aromas wafting in from a smoking gun primed with dried Chef’s Garden herbs.