New Orleans is a city of celebration. And when New Orleans celebrates, it often celebrates with a drink in hand. Sure, you’ll find daquiris, cold beers and every kind of cocktail down here. But the Sazerac Cocktail is the drink you’ll find most intimately associated with New Orleans.
How does a city become so closely tied to a single cocktail? It’s a combination of history, individual creativity, citywide passion and a whole lot of people ordering a whole lot of cocktails.
From France to the French Quarter
Along with plenty of other things, we have the French to thank for the origin of the Sazerac Cocktail. It all began when a French-owned family company began sending their world-renowned cognac to bars (formerly known as coffee houses) in New Orleans. It so happened that this particular cognac was a favorite of Antoine Peychaud, inventor of his namesake’s bitters, and was used to create the original Sazerac Cocktail.
By the 1850s, the first Sazerac House opened and served what many consider to be the first Sazerac Cocktail. Soon enough, locals and travelers alike were flocking to the Sazerac House to get their hands on this unique blend of Old World liquor and New World flavor. Nothing could stop the Sazerac from becoming the city’s favorite drink — not even a change to the cognac that was originally used in the first Sazerac.
Changing with the City
While the spirit of the Sazerac Cocktail remains the same today, the actual spirit that goes into this legendary libation has changed over the years. Arguably the biggest change occurred when the supply of original cognac was cut off from Europe. Luckily, Rye Whiskey made for a quick (and long-lasting) substitute.
The other change from the original ingredient: absinthe. The earliest concoctions of the cocktail often used absinthe, but after it was banned by the United States in 1912, Herbsaint became the mix of choice. And it’s exactly what you’ll find in the Sazerac Cocktail around New Orleans today.
So, while both the cocktail and the city have changed in some ways throughout the decades, some things have never changed: the love for the Sazerac.
Officially the Official Drink of New Orleans
After 150+ years and who knows how many Sazerac Cocktails later, it was time to make it official. In 2008, the state of Louisiana passed legislation that made the Sazerac Cocktail the official cocktail of New Orleans.
It’s a fitting tribute to the drink that arguably started the cocktail movement throughout the United States. It also serves as a nice reminder that traditions can last through generations, through changes and through it all. We’ll drink to that.
BBQ and Whiskey Tasting hosted by The Sazerac House and Emmylou's BBQ.