An Enthusiast’s guide to cocktails: the Sazerac


Sazerac Bar—Roosevelt Hotel, New Orleans

The Sazerac is one of the oldest cocktails still commonly consumed today. Invented around 1830 in New Orleans (where all the classics seem to have come from) by a Creole apothecary from the West Indies named Antoine Amadie Peychaud, the drink’s original recipe called for cognac, bitters, sugar and a dash of water. Incidentally, this concoction was pretty much the only cocktail recipe back in those days—something now referred to as the Old Fashioned.

Antoine’s particular approach and proprietary bitters were so popular that bars (or “Exchanges”) all over NOLA started serving it. Legend has it that a man named Sewell Taylor, owner of Merchants Exchange Coffeehouse, was serving the drink at his bar when he became the sole importer of Sazerac-du-Forge et fils Cognac. Shortly thereafter Aaron Bird took over the Merchant’s Exchange from Taylor, who had gone full-time into importing, and changed the name to Sazerac House after the liquor in their signature drink. And the first branded cocktail was born.
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An Enthusiast’s guide to Cognac


For the record, I’ve been enjoying Cognac ever since listening a certain Master P song about Hennessey a few too many times in college. It has all the wonderful characteristics of whiskey: strong, rich, delightfully long lasting flavor; a warm, buttery feel in the mouth and belly; lots of badass pop culture references. But Cognac takes it to a different level. The smell of cognac is overpowering and each brand is different. Because it is fermented from wine, there is none of the dryness that grain alcohol tends to take on. And the broadness of flavor is unparalleled by all but the finest of other distillates.

In our ruthless (trembling) pursuit of knowledge, your humble Enthusiasts recently attended the The Barbary Coast Conservancy of the American Cocktail’s Cognac tasting class—in large part because we were sure our $20 admission fee was going to be a great value from a purely liquid standpoint. But little did we know how much more there is to Cognac than we had originally assumed. Here is what the remarkable fellows from Beverage Alcohol Resource (Steve Olson, Andy Seymour and Dale DeGroff) taught us that magical night we spent in the Boothby Center for the Beverage Arts.

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