Drink This: Sazerac
Mardi Gras is March 8, so this month we pay tribute to N’Awlins with a classic Big Easy cocktail: the Sazerac. The iconic drink invented in the 1830s was, according to some boosters, the first cocktail ever created. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more artfully presented Sazerac than the one served at downtown’s Noble Experiment.
If you’re lucky enough to score reservations at the speakeasy-style cocktail den, ask for a seat at the bar so you can get a good view of master barkeep Anthony Schmidt as he slowly and deliberately transforms simple ingredients into something sublime. He starts by filling a rocks glass with ice drizzled generously with absinthe — just enough to coat the sides of the glass, perfuming it with the subtle scent of black licorice. Meanwhile, in a separate mixing glass, a white sugar cube is muddled with ice and stirred with two kinds of bitters (Peychaud’s and Angostura) and your choice of rye whiskey, cognac or both (go for the rye). Schmidt empties the rocks glass of its absinthe snow cone, straining off the excess liquor into a “courtesy shooter” that you can sip or just sniff to complement the Sazerac. When ice has cooled the sugar mix to the right temperature (and rounded the edges of a drink that’s basically all alcohol), he strains it into the anise-scented glass and slides it across the bar into your eagerly waiting hands. What happens on your taste buds after that is pure alchemy.
“I make at least one or two of these very niche-y, very particular drinks a night, and they’re not even on our menu,” Schmidt says. “I think it’s a delicious cocktail, and it’s a great introduction to whiskey. It’s liquid history.”