It’s almost Mardi Gras, and whether or not you’re headed to New Orleans, if you’re celebrating Nola-style then there are certainly some good cocktails in your future. And the Sazerac is not only the official cocktail of New Orleans — it’s actually rumored to be the oldest known American cocktail ever created. That’s a lot of history in one little drink!

The original cocktail called for a rinse of absinthe long before it was banned in the States. If you want to capture that original taste, use Pernod as your anise-flavored spirit. The base of the cocktail was initially a French cognac called Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils, which is where the drink got its name. When bar owner Aaron Bird started crafting these cocktails back in the 1850s, he worked with the local apothecary, Antoine Amedie Peychaud, on the mix. Recognize the name? Peychaud’s Bitters! He created his own custom bitters, similar to Angostura bitters, but with a lighter body, sweeter taste, and more floral aroma. It’s now one of the definitive components of the Sazerac cocktail.

The history of this drink is also responsible for the term “Old Fashioned.” The Sazerac was a riff on the plain whiskey or cognac cocktail, but patrons whose taste buds weren’t attuned to ingredients like absinthe and Peychaud’s would ask for their cocktails to be the “Old Fashioned” way. The more you know!

sazerac cocktail

From Paul Clarke, Serious Eats

(Serves 1)


  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 or 4 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
  • a few drops water
  • ice
  • 2 ounces rye whiskey
  • 1 teaspoon absinthe
  • lemon peel


  1. Chill an Old Fashioned glass or small tumbler in the freezer.
  2. In a mixing glass, combine sugar, Peychaud’s Bitters, and a few drops of water. Mix until the sugar is dissolved, and add rye whiskey. Add plenty of ice and stir for about 30 seconds to chill.
  3. Remove the chilled glass from the freezer and pour the absinthe or anise-flavored liquor into your chilled glass and rotate until the inside is well-coated. Discard the excess. Strain the cocktail from your mixing glass into your serving glass.
  4. Twist a lemon peel over the drink and enjoy!

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(Photos via Nicole Iizuka / Brit + Co)