A Sazerac is a deceptively simple cocktail. Although it only requires four ingredients—rye whiskey, Peychaud’s bitters, simple syrup and absinthe—every ingredient is equally important. It is crucial to use high quality spirits, and the bottles you use will change the flavor of the cocktail. While rye whiskey is the obvious star of the show, brazenly boozy absinthe is the rug that ties the room together. Here, the four best absinthes for mixing Sazeracs. Now you can make them like the pros in New Orleans.
Bottled at 68 percent alcohol (which is a whopping 136 proof), this absinthe makes an herbaceous and extremely boozy Sazerac. Based on the original recipe that Pernod created in 1805, this spirit uses a grape eau de vie and grand wormwood from Pontarlier, France. It is spicy and vegetal with notes of fennel, black licorice candy and white pepper. Pair it with an equally peppery rye that has subtle vegetal notes like Knob Creek’s Single Barrel Rye or Rittenhouse Rye.
Distilled in Pontarlier, France—which is hailed as the capital of absinthe and the source of some of the finest wormwood in the world—this absinthe is incredibly complex and flavorful with bright citrus notes and a strong herbal backbone. In a Sazerac, it lends a creamy texture and strong flavors of black licorice and fennel. Even the tiniest amount will boost the pepperiness commonly found in rye whiskies.
This American-made absinthe is produced at the St. George Distillery in Alameda, California. Using a unaged brandy as the base, it’s infused with an amalgam of herbs, including wormwood, fennel and star anise. After the first infusion, the spirit is re-distilled and infused again, this time with mint, tarragon, lemon balm, hyssop and stinging nettles, which bring subtle citrus notes, a hint of menthol and a forest-like flavor and aroma. It makes a complex, layered and extremely herbaceous Sazerac.
While this is technically not an absinthe (it’s an anise liqueur), the spirit’s history is tied to the Sazerac cocktail. Until 2007, absinthe wasn’t legal in the United States. Created by J. Marion Legendre in the 1930s, Herbsaint liqueur was a legal way to get the flavor and booziness of absinthe. Still produced today (it is actually owned by the Sazerac Company), the liqueur has become a staple ingredient in the New Orleans Sazerac. Bottled at a potent 100 proof, the liqueur gives the drink the same wallop as absinthe with a touch of sweetness that adds roundness and weight. If you use the Sazerac Company’s rye whiskey and this liqueur for your Sazerac, you’ve created a truly authentic Big Easy cocktail.