Sazerac Rye traces its origins to New Orleans, around 1838. That was when Antoine Amedie Peychaud, an apothecary, began serving French brandy toddies that included his own “Peychaud’s Bitters.” In the 1870s, during a cognac shortage, the recipe was altered to use American rye whiskey with a dash of absinthe. The Sazerac Company was founded in 1933, selling a bottled version of the cocktail. Only relatively recently, in 2000, was the Official Sazerac Cocktail recipe modified to use Sazerac Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey, distilled by Buffalo Trace Distillery.
I’m of mixed mind about this rye, and maybe I’m writing about it too soon (I haven’t yet finished a bottle.) On one hand, it drinks like ryes above its price range; on the other hand, it can seem like three different spirits, from start to finish.
Sazerac is beautiful gold in the glass. It’s spicy hot and a bit sweet in the nose, then unexpectedly smooth on the palate. Cool on the lips; it spreads across the tongue like a cognac. Honey butter; then spicy rye around the edges; then it fills the mouth with a puff of smoke during the medium, slightly astringent finish.
Overall, Sazerac is not as edgy as many ryes – it’s a more refined experience. (If rye is a drink for summer evenings, this suggests Indian summer.) With that said, the elements don’t necessarily integrate as well as one might like, taken neat.
I’m not a cocktail drinker, because mixologists strive to mask the taste of alcohol, which is what I’m most interested in. I might have to make an exception for the Sazerac Cocktail (sugar, rye, Herbsaint, Peychaud’s Bitters, and lemon peel) – not only to bring my experience of this rye full circle, but perhaps to step back in time, to a New Orleans Indian summer evening.