Thursday, May 26, 2005


In N’Awlins, as far as I can tell, they will drink any damn thing they please, thank you very much. You gotta give serious Drinkin’ Props to a state where drive-thru daiquiri stands are still legal, as they are in Lousy-Ana Louisiana. Beer, wine, all kinds of hooch...all fair game in N’Awlins.

But there is one Adult Beverage that, to me, really captures that magical Creole essence of the Crescent City. And that Adult Beverage is the Sazerac cocktail.

When She Who Must Be Obeyed and I, along with our friends Steve and Sue, spent Memorial Day weekend in New Orleans two years ago, one of the Extremely Pleasant Experiences we had was lunch at Commander’s Palace, one of the Serious Dining Establishments of the city. And that is where I ordered up several Sazerac cocktails, all perfectly executed by the Commander’s Palace barkeep. The view was beautiful, the companionship estimable, the food superb – and those Sazeracs were the spot-on perfect accompaniment to it all.

My version of the Sazerac starts with a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Into this, put two jiggers of rye whiskey, a teaspoon of simple syrup, and three or four dashes of Peychaud’s bitters. [I’ll point out that Commander’s Palace uses Bourbon, not rye, for their Sazerac. It’s a great drink with Bourbon, but it’s not completely authentic. Use rye if you can get it.]

Now, take a chilled Old Fashioned glass. Pour in a half-jigger of Herbsaint or Absente. Swirl it around to coat the inside of the glass, then pour out the excess, leaving a little in the glass. (You want to taste the Herbsaint, but you don’t want it to dominate the drink.) Now, grab the cocktail shaker and shake that bad boy until the contents are thoroughly iced down. Strain into that Old Fashioned glass. Take a piece of lemon peel and twist it over the drink, then rub it on the rim of the glass. Drop it in if you wish (I do) - and you’re good to go.

At the risk of disappointing Zonker, I will tell you that there are no peyote buttons in this Fine Beverage, but you don’t need ’em. They say that if you use enough Herbsaint, you’re likely to start hallucinating, and they very well might be right. These drinks do make me see and hear things.

When I drink a Sazerac, I see cypress trees heavy with Spanish moss reflected in my lady’s blue eyes. When I drink a Sazerac, I hear the sounds of Dixieland jazz and the Brooklynesque patois that’s unique to this corner of Louisiana.

When I drink a Sazerac, wherever I am, I’m back in N’Awlins.

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