Sazerac Cocktail

Originally made with Cognac, before Phylloxera vastatrix destroyed grape vines across France, now widely made with rye whiskey, the Sazerac is the quintessential New Orleans cocktail. since in preparation and complex in flavor profile, it is not to be missed.


1/4 oz simple syrup

two dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

2 oz rye whiskey

Absinthe or Hersaint


Chill small old fashioned glass by filling with ice.

To another glass add first three ingredients.

Stir with ice.

Discard ice from chilled old fashioned glass.

Rinse or spray with Absinthe or Herbsaint.

Strain other ingredients into prepared glass.

Garnish with a lemon peel.


Kimberly Patton-Bragg 2 Jun 2008
9:50 am

Kudos on this last episode on the Sazerac! The Sazerac is my favorite cocktail and I’ve been evangelizing my guests to this classic for years.  At Blue Smoke in NYC we use Old Overholt and Pernod, which is perfectly acceptable, but at home I use Sazerac Rye and Herbsainte which I brought back from New Orleans (it’s not distributed here). I’ve never seen the technique of the atomizer for this drink and I must say, it’s pretty brilliant. I hate seeing good liquor get tossed out ( not to mention what it does to the bar cost ). By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask, WHERE did you get that gorgeous jigger. Please don’t tell me it’s an unavailable antique.

Robert Hess 2 Jun 2008
10:18 am

I would LOVE to see the Sazerac get more exposure, but only of course if it is properly made. There are a wide variety of different ways I’ve seen folks attempt to make this drink, some of them pretty far off base.

The jigger I use to “make” the drink is the OXO acrylic “mini-angled measure”, which is my absolute favorite jigger… or perhaps you mean that white ceramic thing you see in the background of the opening/closing shot. That’s just a ceramic “egg cup” that I picked up at a kitchen shop.

If you use an atomizer for the absinthe as you see me do here, it works best if it is true absinthe and not a pastis (Pastis being the term that “Ricard” promoted as refering to the various absinthe substitutes that came out post-pan), since most (all?) pastis are sweetened, and this has a tendency to clog up the atomizer if you don’t use it regularly.


Thomas 2 Jun 2008
11:09 am

Nice!  (Any significance to the NASA glass?)

Robert Hess 2 Jun 2008
11:19 am

Noticed the NASA glass eh? :-> No significance other than the fact that they are the perfect size/shape/type for the glass I like to serve Sazeracs in. Just something I picked up on eBay a few months back.

Drinking a Sazerac in a stemmed cocktail glass just seems wrong to me, even though I regularly find folks making them like that.

And while we are on the topic of a “proper Sazerac”, I’d like to comment on the practice I often see listed for either using a combination of Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters, or using Angostura bitters instead of Peychaud’s in a Sazerac. For me, this is just wrong (but as Gary always says, “nothing is written in stone”). For me, a Sazerac uses only Peychaud’s bitters. I suspect the other versions are simply trying to deal with how difficult it can be sometimes to find a bitter other than Angostura. If you’ve got Peychaud’s, use Peychaud’s and nothing else. If you don’t have Peychaud’s, then you aren’t making a Sazerac :->


Jonathan Burbank 2 Jun 2008
12:08 pm

Great episode!!  I can’t wait to atomize with absinthe.  I propose a drinking game:  with each episode, one first makes the cocktail, then reviews the episode again and downs the drink each time Robert says “take and…”

Nicolas 3 Jun 2008
8:20 am

How always a great episode. But there’s one question I’m still chewing on:

Are you using Simple Syrup ( 1:1) or Rich Syrup. And why haben’t you chosen the homemade Demerara Syrup?

Greetings from Germany

Robert Hess 3 Jun 2008
9:00 am

Nicolas, as you can see via the label on the squeeze bottle in the background, I was using the “rich” simple syrup here. For the most part, I (almost) never make 1:1 syrup, so any time you see me using a syrup it is going to be 2:1… but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the same drink with the same recipe, but using a 1:1 syrup instead.

I think it is important for all of us to adjust drinks to suit our own tastes, and come to a personal understanding of what that means. So make the drink as close as you can to how you see me do it first, and then form your own opinion about the “balance” of the drink. If you think it is too sweet, then cut back a bit on the syrup, not sweet enough, add a little mroe.

And I didn’t use the Demerara syrup because I didn’t have any with me for this shoot :->


Brad 3 Jun 2008
4:42 pm

Robert, great episode!

Good to see the mix for the proper Sazerac getting so much coverage. I recently had an unfortunate Sazerac at a New Orleans cornerstone restaurant that rhymes with rennans. However by the end of the night they were making them right.

Also, for those of you who love the Sazerac our friend Ann, founder of Tales of the Cocktail, is on a mission to make the Sazerac the Official cocktail on Louisiana.

If anyone wants to help out this cause email me at bar.mix.master[at] for info.


Mark 3 Jun 2008
10:10 pm

I hate to ask about a substitution following a series specifically designed to rekindle interests in proper Sazeracs, but I find myself with neither Absinthe or Herbsaint.  I do have a quite old (20+ years) bottle of De Napoleon Anisette.  Firstly, is Anisette even a proper substitution?  And secondly, what are the effects on the (probably accidently) bottle-aged Anisette?  If it matters, I am fairly certain that the bottle was unopened until a few weeks ago.


Robert Hess 4 Jun 2008
5:15 am

Mark, since the amount of absinthe being used in the Sazerac is so slight, your anisette will be a “decent” substitution. It will lend a slightly different flavor profile to the drink, but at least it is in the right direction. As for being 20 years old, that won’t be a problem.

Absinthe never really caught on here in America back in the 1800’s, it was mostly used similarly to how you see it being used here in the Sazerac, just as an “accent” to the drink, as opposed to being drunk by itself. Many bartenders whould have had a “bitters bottle” on the counter filled with absinthe, and add a dash or two to a drink much the same way they might use Angostura bitters.


Alan E. 6 Jun 2008
9:58 pm

Sigh, I didn’t get enough of a heads up to head out to this altogether too interesting cocktail revival!

I live in “The City” as San Francisco is known by it’s locals, and I didn’t even know this event was even in the works!  I wish I was able to make it to Elixir (I’m about 10 min away).  Maybe I’ll order the Sazerac when I check out 16th and Mission.

H. Joseph Ehrmann 8 Jun 2008
8:48 am

Robert, I too love the atomizer, especially for pour costs as well as dramatic effect (I love when customers look at me wierd and ask questions for doing fun stuff like that). I usually serve Sazeracs in a glass like you used, but I found these cool old glasses at a local thrift shop and thought the drink fit nicely in it. That’s what I’m using in the Shirazerac video. Unfortunately they’re fragile and will be gone when customers or bartenders break the last ones and I’ll be back to the thrift shops. Alan, I just hand selected and bought an entire barrel of Sazerc Rye, so we’ll be making sazeracs for a long time. AND, I’m donating the profits for that and the t-shirts I made for the event to Tales of the Cocktail until July 16th, the first day of the event. So come down and have one with me! (feel free to contact me at [email protected]) Cheers!

Robert Hess 26 Jun 2008
4:26 pm

Driving home this evening I was pleasently surprised to hear my good friend Lu Brow discuss the “Sazerac” cocktail in light of it recently being declared the official cocktail of New Orleans!

You can check it out over on NPR’s website here:

Although I might personally disagree with Lu’s addition of Angostura bitters to the drink. It’s my feeling that this was an evolution of the recipe that occured for places where Peychaud was difficult, if not impossible to find.

oliver 15 Jul 2008
4:46 am

As far as i know the sazerac company first produced a cognac. So the original recipe has to be with cognac. rye came later. and with cognac the use of peychaud`s AND angostura makes sense.

oliver 15 Jul 2008
4:55 am

by the way, were was the first sazerac recipe published? and is it with or without ice in the glass?
than you robert for all.

Robert Hess 25 Jul 2008
7:11 am


We are working on tracking down the often confusing history of the Sazerac cocktail, it is confusing because the proper name “Sazerac Cocktail” and a firm recipe, don’t always come together throughout history, instead there are recipes, and indications that these recipes were served at the Sazerac Coffee House, and other listings of recipes and indications that these were Antoine Peychaud’s drink, which was then eventually served in one form or another at the Sazerac Coffee house… it makes for such confusing research that it drives you to drink :->

David Wondrich is diving into some of these details, and the results should be facinating when he is finished.

Robert Hess 25 Jul 2008
7:21 am


The “Sazerac Company” is different from the brandy which was originally used in the cocktail served at the Sazerac Coffee House. The brandy was “Sazerac-du-Forge et fils”, and is no longer manufactured. The Sazerac Company came much later.

As for the Peychaud/Angostura debate, it is my feeling that a “true” Sazerac cocktail should just contain Peychaud’s, since the drink was originally formulated by Anotine Peychaud, and he most certainly would not have included Angostura.

Ok, so I’m a stickler for Peychaud, but not for brandy? Reason being that I’ll recongize the evolution (which includes the addition of Absinthe), but also want to recognize the origins of the drink,  and pay homeage to Antoine Peychaud.

I personally feel that the addition of Angostura evolved due to the often inability for bartenders to get Peychaud bitters outside of New Orleans, so they started substituting Angostura. I think it makes a decidely different drink.

But if you are going to be doing a cognac based Sazerac, then I don’t think there is any argument but that you have to also only use Peychaud’s, because I think it would have been far less likely for anybody to have been using Angostura in that version of the drink since it was still mostly being served just in New Orleans, where Peychauds (or one of the competing variations, none of which are available anymore) would have been readily available.


Nate 6 Jan 2009
5:32 am

Hey Robert, nice video.  I’m a bit confused though.  On your drinkboy website in your recipe for the Sazerac you say that shaking and straining it “looses some of the interesting flavors and qualities of the drink”, but in this video you do strain it.  So in that recipe did you mean just the shaking part ruins it, because the way it’s worded I took it as you don’t recommend doing either.  Or have you changed your mind on that over time?

I see that you prefer to use Demerara sugar for your simple syrup, and at a 2:1 ratio.  Is all Demerara created equal?  Would the Domino brand I can buy at my local grocery store be sufficient?

Last but not least, what absinthe do you prefer to use?  I’ve gathered that Jade Nouvelle-Orleans and Marteau are ideal. 

Thanks in advance for your response.

Robert Hess 6 Jan 2009
7:36 am


Well, when I make a Sazerac at home, I just build it in the glass, and only use the ice to pre-chill the class and leave just a little water. But I’ve come to feel that this is perhaps just a little bit extreme, and so in this video I am showing what I would consider the “proper” way to make it, just not the “only” :->

No idea if all Demerara is created equal, I haven’t really done an exaustive study of it, but I think any differences you might find would simply add a little extra character.

As for Absinthe, in a Sazerac it is such a small bit, that I don’t think there is really enough to allow the “slight” differences between the various “good” brands out there to show through. In fact just even using a pastis would probably be hard to detect much of a difference with.

But you can’t go wrong with any of the Jade products, or Marteau.

Alan S. 5 Feb 2009
10:01 am

I’m kind of surprised that Absinthe is part of a New Orleans favorite.  I was under the impression that Absinthe is more of a modern European thing.  I also wasn’t aware that Absinthe could or should be used in spray form.  I suppose I have a lot to learn about Absinthe.  My only experience with it is in an Absinthe bar in Spain, and needless to say it was not sprayed, but poured generously.
Alan S.

Kimberly Patton-Bragg 5 Feb 2009
10:55 am

Actually Absinthe reached the shores of New Orleans before it even got to New York, from what I’m told - probably due to the French influence here. I think maybe even to this day Absinthe and Chartreuse might even outsell New York in volume. Thank god absinthe is legal again!

ptbar 20 Apr 2009
3:58 pm

Hello Robert !!
I work as a Bartender in a Hotel in Europe, Portugal
In many Bar in Europe Sazerac is Made very similar to your video but they add Cognac, and Bourbon (if they not have rye).
is that correct ? or is that not a true sazerac?.... just a variation
see this example from one of the best bar in london:

Robert Hess 21 Apr 2009
4:28 am

Originally, the Sazerac was made with cognac, in fact they were using “Sazerac” brand cognac, which is how the drink got it’s name. But it was sometime around 1860 or so that they switched to using rye whiskey instead, as well as adding the absinthe. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody mix cognac and bourbon together in a Sazerac.

You could argue for either cognac or whiskey being the right spirit to use in a Sazerac, but it has become traditional for the last hundred years or more to use whiskey.

Gryffin 11 Jul 2009
6:35 am

Robert, I’ve had a Sazerac done that way, with bourbon and cognac, at the bar of the Monaco Hotel in San Francisco. They are sublime!

If you think about it, it makes sense: bourbon is sweeter, and IMHO generally less complex, than a good rye; adding cognac dries the drink out a bit, takes the edge off the bourbon’s sweetness, and adds a few more layers of flavor.

I’m a big fan of the Sazerac. Had my first one on a lark (I’d never heard of it!) at a New Orleans themed restaurant, and it was love at first sip. In fact, the Sazerac, along with the show “Mad Men”, got me hooked on rye whiskey, and got me interested in mixology in general, and hence, this site!

Trevor 1 Dec 2009
10:53 pm

Why such a small glass?  I prefer a larger rocks style or Old Fashioned type glass.  This way, the rye mixture fills up maybe a third of the glass and doesn’t rinse away the absinthe coating, allowing you to inhale that stuff with every sip.  Try it!

Robert Hess 1 Dec 2009
11:03 pm

I’m using the smaller glass here for two reasons…

1. The Sazerac is often served in a “small” Old Fashioned glass similar to this.

2. I wanted to show off my cool NASA etched glasses I picked up on eBay.


Trevor 1 Dec 2009
11:11 pm

Haha!!  It is a cool glass!  Seriously though, I think the absinthe aroma with each sip adds an extra dimension to this drink that makes it truly unique.

Niko-San 24 Feb 2010
5:01 am

Hi ptbar, Gryffin, & Mr. Hess.

Belive the 1/2 cognac & 1/2 bourbon sazerac recipe is from DeGroffs Craft of the cocktail.

We have absinthe in Copenhagen but do you know how close the Herbsaint is to the Pernod 68?

Robert Hess 24 Feb 2010
5:25 am

Niko-San, Pernod 68 is an absinthe (although not one I can personally recommend, it isn’t made in the traditional fashion, using extracts instead of proper maceration), while Herbsaint is an absinthe substitute. The Sazerac company “just” brought out a new version of Herbsaint which supposedly takes it back to it’s original formulation which is far better then what the product had evolved into over the years.

Robert Hess 24 Feb 2010
5:30 am

I should point out that today (Feb 24, 2010) would be the 207th birthday of Antoine Amedee Peychaud (born in 1803), inventor of Peychaud’s bitters, a key ingredient of the Sazerac cocktail, and so today is “International Sazerac Day”! Tonight would make a good time to either mix one up yourself, or to stop in at your favorite (quality) bar and try one of theirs.

Steven D. Lauria 31 Jan 2011
10:16 am

Hi Robert,

I can’t find a metal atomizer.  Is it OK to use a plastic one?  My worry is that the alcohol would bread down the chemicals even in the hard plastic.

Do you know where I can buy a metal atomizer—- an atomizer like the one you use in the video?

As, always, thank you!

Post a Comment

You must be registered and logged in to post comments.

Login to Comment register new account

remember me