image by Tod Seelie
On this fine Memorial Day, we find ourselves in New Orleans, the birthplace, some say, of the cocktail. According to one popular story, a certain Monsieur Antoine Peychaud held an apothecary in the French Quarter in the 1830s where he sold his homemade medicinal bitters. He quickly realized, as any descent French man would, that the bitters’ beneficial effects were improved by Cognac, sugar and water. He measured the ingredients in an eggcup, “coquetier” in French, thus creating the first cocktail.
According to his descendant, the aptly crowned “spirit cognoscenti” and founder of the New Orleans Museum of the American Cocktail, Phil Greene, the word “cocktail” appeared in print well before Paychaud’s shop. He did, however, invent the Sazerac, a real classic worthy of its legend. Poor Peychaud would be turning in his grave if he had word of our modern abominations such as the spinster classic, the Cosmo, or the date rape favorite, the Long Island Iced Tea. Don’t leint my beer, bro. Cheers!
Here’s the original Sazerac recipe, according to the Museum of the American Cocktail:
Chill a small rocks glass filled with ice, then empty the ice into a second glass. In the first glass, add 1 cube of sugar, 1 teaspoon of water, and 2 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters.
Muddle together until sugar dissolves (alternatively, use simple syrup instead of a sugar cube and water). Add 3 ounces rye whiskey and stir. Pour mixture into the ice-filled glass. Pour a teaspoon of absinthe into the empty glass, and twirl it around well to coat the inside of the glass, then pour out any absinthe that remains in the bottom.
Strain the main mixture out of the ice-filled glass into the absinthe-coated glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel.