For anyone familiar with the famous Sazerac cocktail, here’s a mini lesson for those who aren’t already history buffs: the original Sazerac actually contained brandy, absinthe, a lump of sugar and a few drops of bitters, a medicinal recipe created by Creole apothecary Antoine Amedie Peychaud.
As brandy became harder to import, the recipe switched to American-made rye whiskey, a rough-and-tumble concoction that came from just up the Mississippi River in Kentucky. Soon absinthe was outlawed, and other anise-flavored liqueurs such as Pernod had to take its place. Still, the drink’s popularity in many of New Orleans’ famous “coffee houses” (namely, the Sazerac Coffee House, which probably didn’t sell much coffee) earned it the dubious title of “America’s First Cocktail.”
The Sazerac Company, which was born from the bar where the cocktail was sold, eventually bought the original Kentucky distillery that created the rye whiskey for its signature drink. Aged 18 years, this whiskey is a hearty reminder of America’s saloon days, when liquor didn’t need complexity and sophistication as much as it needed to give you a swift kick in the pants. Like most ryes, the Sazerac is inherently a strong, spicy whiskey with a bit of warmth in the throat. On the nose, it shows great signs of maturity with its subtle aromas of caramel and vanilla, a quality rare in many rye whiskeys. Newcomers to rye should definitely cut it with a splash of water, but if you have the stomach, sip it neat to experience the flavors. Or better yet, enjoy it the way it was created to be: in a timeless Sazerac cocktail.