International Sazerac Day
A few moments ago, I saw a post on Facebook (via a friend) by The Oakland (a joint in Detroit) announcing that they will be celebrating International Sazerac Day today, which - yes, of course, duh, let’s get on board with this!
Alas, International Sazerac Day does not appear to be a very widespread phenomenon, at least in the Gospel According to St. Google, and I couldn’t find much by way of confirmation that today was indeed said day, nor could I find an explanation as to why, save for this one page in Spanish. Using my best translation abilities (which consist of confirming that “yes” I would like Google to translate this page for me), I discovered that the site claims Antoine Amédée Peychaud, creator of Peychaud’s bitters (one of the constitutive ingredients of a Sazerac) was born on February 24th, 1803 and cites Robert Hess (esteemed cocktail expert - no really, that’s what Wikipedia refers to him as) as the source of this information. Now, the page that I was able to find where Hess refers to Peychaud does, indeed, refer to Peychaud as the creator of Peychaud’s bitters, but puts his emigration from Haiti to the United States (specifically New Orleans) at 1795, while a now-defunct page for the Sazerac Company claims his bitters to be a New Orleans tradition since 1793. However, in this video Robert Hess repeats the claim that Peychaud was born in 1803 (despite the emigration claim made on his old webpage.) Geni.com lists an Antoine Amédée Peychaud and puts his year and location of birth at 1803 and Dominica, respectively. Ancestry.com has the same listing, but puts the year at 1804. (Geni.com also lists his profession as “Pharmacien” which fits with his being an apothecary.) I was unable, however, to find any other reference to February 24th as the day of his birth.
Regarding the cocktail, Esquire’s drink historian puts the invention of the Sazerac around 1850 and credits it to Aaron Bird, who made the cocktail the signature drink of his Sazerac House (formerly the Merchants Exchange Coffee House, where he had been a clerk). The story says that, for this drink, Bird would use bitters being made down the street by a local apothecary named…Antoine Amédée Peychaud.
While Peychaud’s bitters are absolutely indispensible to a Sazerac cocktail, I am unsure as to why a maybe sort of possibly birthday for their creator would be marked as the day for celebrating the entire cocktail. It seems to me that June 23rd would be more appropriate, as that was the day in 2008 when the Louisiana state legislature finally, after months of struggle, declared the drink the official cocktail of New Orleans.
But, you know…whatever. I am not one to complain! I’m not a complainer! I’ll take any excuse to make a Sazerac tonight! You should, too!
Here’s how I make mine at home:
Take a low-ball glass and rinse it with absinthe. I use Great Lakes Distillery’s absente verde, but another variety will work (you can even use, say, green Chartreuse or some Pernod or whatnot - so long as it is good and anise-y). in the bottom of the glass, muddle one sugar cube (or a tbsp of simple syrup if you have it on hand) with a dash or two of Angostura bitters and 4 or so dashes of Peychaud’s (I really, really like bitters, so I tend to go a bit heavy on them - you can back off of things get a little too in-yo-face for your taste). Fill the glass with ice and add 2 oz of rye whiskey. Sazerac rye is great if you have it on hand, or Old Overholt if you want a cheap rye that will mix real well. I currently have Willett Straight Rye Whiskey in the house, so I’ll be using that. Give the drink a quick stir and add a swatch of lemon peel (or orange peel if you don’t have any lemons on hand) for garnish.
Of course, you can do it up proper and first shake the ingredients (save for the absinthe) over ice before pouring the chilled drink straight into an absinthe-rinsed glass. I’ll do it this way when I’m entertaining and/or don’t mind messying up a few extra utensils, but otherwise when I’m home alone I usually take the quick-and-dirty on-the-rocks route.
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