Cocktail Hour: Sazerac

Margaret Houston

The most classic of classic cocktails

Though the drink itself dates back to 1830s New Orleans (when it was made with cognac and absinthe), this 1940s version reflects the recipe’s evolution over the years, blending rye whiskey, bitters, cane syrup, and Herbsaint, an anise-flavored liqueur made in the Crescent City following the nationwide ban on absinthe in 1912. “The Sazerac is a perfect metaphor for a Southern gentleman,” says chef Paul Fehribach, who grew up just across the river from Louisville, Kentucky, in Indiana, and now serves heirloom Southern fare at Big Jones restaurant in Chicago. He turned to that recipe to inspire the one in his recently released The Big Jones Cookbook.


(Photograph by Margaret Houston)

Sazerac Cocktail circa 1940
From chef Paul Fehribach, Big Jones, Chicago, Illinois

2 oz. rye whiskey
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
½ oz. cane syrup [such as Steen’s]
1 bar spoon Herbsaint
Orange, for garnish

Chill a rocks glass. Place 1 cup of ice cubes in a cocktail shaker, and add the rye, bitters, and cane syrup. Stir gently with a bar spoon for 10 seconds, then allow to rest on the ice for a few moments while you cut a fresh orange peel garnish and rinse the glass. With a vegetable peeler, cut a fresh section of orange peel ¾ inch in diameter for the garnish, avoiding the white pith as much as possible. Add Herbsaint to the chilled glass, give it a swirl, and pour off excess. Stir the whiskey mixture another 5 seconds more and strain into glass. Garnish with orange peel.

(Reprinted with permission from The Big Jones Cookbook: Recipes for Savoring the Heritage of Regional Southern Cooking by Paul Fehribach, published by the University of Chicago Press. © 2015 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.)