Classics Week: The Sazerac

Classics Week: The Sazerac

Classics Week: The Sazerac

Believe it or not, cocktails in general and many of the classic cocktails in particular have their roots in the very beginnings of pharmacy. For instance, yesterday’s drink, the daiquiri, started as a preventative medicine against scurvy. And bitters–those extra-intense alcohol mixtures that play an especially prominent role in the beginning of cocktails–all began as proprietary cures designed by apothecaries (early pharmacists). Today’s cocktail is based on a stomach medicine created by a 19th Century, New Orleans apothecary named Peychaud.

Add some absinthe, also thought to be a digestive aid, and some cognac or rye, to help it go down, and you really have something. I don’t know that what you have is a genuine stomach cure. But you definitely have a delicious beverage that people have been enjoying in New Orleans and beyond for 150 years now.

If you’re interested in reading more about the pharmaceutical roots of the cocktail, pick up a copy of Warren Bobrow’s Apothecary Cocktails. I can’t imagine a more suitable way to read it than over a Sazerac.


The Sazerac


  • 2 oz rye whiskey (or cognac)–I use Old Overholt rye; it’s inexpensive and tasty
  • 1 tsp simple syrup (i.e. .5 tsp of sugar and .5 tsp of water, stirred)
  • 2 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
  • .5 tsp of absinthe (or other anise liqueur)
  • a twist of lemon rind (to garnish)


  • Swirl the anise liqueur around the bottom and sides of an old-fashioned glass and discard the remainder (or don’t if you, like I, enjoy the flavor of anise).
  • Add ice to the old-fashioned glass.
  • Combine the whiskey, simple syrup, and bitters in a mixing glass and stir for 40 rotations.
  • Strain into the old-fashioned glass.
  • Garnish with the lemon twist.
  • Watch your stomach troubles fade away.

Others in this series: 

Day 1: The Manhattan / Day 2: The Daiquiri

Roberts & June