New Orleans Declares Sazerac Its Cocktail of Choice The Louisiana Legislature has proclaimed the Sazerac — a potent mix of rye whiskey, bitters and absinthe — New Orleans' official cocktail. A local bar chef explains the appeal and shares the secret to making the iconic drink.
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New Orleans Declares Sazerac Its Cocktail of Choice

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New Orleans Declares Sazerac Its Cocktail of Choice

New Orleans Declares Sazerac Its Cocktail of Choice

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Now, news from the department of mixological legislation. On Monday, the Louisiana Legislature voted the Sazerac cocktail the official cocktail of the city of New Orleans. Earlier attempts to make the Sazerac the state cocktail failed in the Lower House.

Official cocktails aren't entirely unprecedented. A few years ago, Finlandia Vodka created the Flightless Fin, a kiwi fruit-based, lime fusion, vodka martini which was to be the official cocktail of the Air New Zealand Fashion Week.

This, of course, is much bigger than that and the Sazerac isn't some drink just cooked up for a promotion scheme, it is a venerable mix of rye and bitters and other stuff cooked up by a Creole apothecary in the antebellum French Quarter. And it's still big at the Swizzle Stick Bar where Lu Brow is the bar chef, and she joins us from New Orleans. Welcome to the program, Lu.

Ms. LU BROW (Bar Chef, Swizzle Stick Bar): Hello. How are you today? I'm glad to be here.

SIEGEL: Fine. And joining me in the studio is a member of our staff appearing incognito who will perform the role of bar sous chef, he's going to actually make the drink, okay?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BROW: Okay.

SIEGEL: Tell us about a Sazerac and what's so good about it?

Ms. BROW: Well, I'm - I can't begin to tell you how excited I am that it's our city's official cocktail. I don't know of another city in the United States that has an official cocktail, and if there was ever a city that needed one, it's New Orleans.

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

Ms. BROW: To me the most interesting thing about the Sazerac cocktail are the bitters, and the bitters are Peychaud's Bitters. Antoine Amedee Peychaud was a Creole immigrant, and he arrived in New Orleans in about 1795. He was a pharmacist and he ran an apothecary on Royal Street. And at night, he would blend brandy and his secret recipe for his bitters together and he would serve this to gentlemen.

SIEGEL: And in addition to those bitters, what else is in this drink?

Ms. BROW: Well, let's start from the top. We're going to have two rocks glasses.

SIEGEL: All right, we got the two rocks glasses.

Ms. BROW: We're going to take absinthe.

SIEGEL: I think we're going to use a substitute.

Ms. BROW: You're going to use Herbsaint or Pernod, or what do you have today?

SIEGEL: We're going to use Herbsaint as a substitute for the absinthe.

Ms. BROW: Just take a bit of it, about a bar teaspoonful.

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

Ms. BROW: Pour it into an empty rocks glass that's at room temperature, and you're going to swirl that around.

SIEGEL: Swirl it around the...

Ms. BROW: I really want you to swirl it around, it's got thick legs on it. Take the remnants of that and you're going to toss it out into your waste area.

SIEGEL: Wait a minute. We're tossing out what part here?

Ms. BROW: You're tossing out the Herbsaint.

SIEGEL: I see. Okay. Just - we just coated the glass with that, right? I see. I see.

Ms. BROW: That's it. You're just coating it; it's actually just a rinse. And now, take that glass and fill it with ice.

SIEGEL: Fill it with ice. Okay.

(Soundbite of ice cubes clinking)

Ms. BROW: And just set it to the side. So now, take your shaker.

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

Ms. BROW: Since you've already gone one step ahead and...

SIEGEL: Right.

Ms. BROW: ...and made simple syrup, put it in your mixer glass.

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

Ms. BROW: Add your good drops of your Peychaud's Bitters.

SIEGEL: We've done that.

Ms. BROW: Now, we're going to add two ounces of rye whiskey. There are several brands out there. Take two ounces of that and put that in your mixing glass with your sugar that has the bitters.

SIEGEL: Two ounces of the rye whiskey going into the mixing glass.

(Soundbite of pouring)

SIEGEL: Okay, we're all in.

Ms. BROW: Okay. Now, we're going to add ice to that mixture. So we want to leave a lot of room at the top so that spoon can move.

(Soundbite of stirring)

Unidentified Man: What happened to the Angostura, lost that.

Ms. BROW: We'll use one drop of Angostura bitters.

(Soundbite of stirring)

SIEGEL: I think we've got everything in the shaker now.

Ms. BROW: Okay. Stir quickly.

SIGEL: This is stirred not shaken.

Ms. BROW: Stirred not shaken.

(Soundbite of stirring)

Ms. BROW: And you stir that up really briskly, you want to get a lot of motion going on there. That sounds wonderful. And what we're going to do is really, really chill that mixture. There we go. Now we're going to take the spoon out. We're going to use a strainer. Take the glass that you put to the side with the ice in it, and now you're going to toss that ice out. So your glass is really cold.

SIEGEL: We've make quite a drink just in the garbage, so far, by what we've thrown out...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BROW: And what you'll do is strain that mixture that you've just stirred into that chilled rocks glass that was rinsed with the Herbsaint.

(Soundbite of ice tinkling)


Ms. BROW: And now, we'll take that beautiful twist of lemon and twist it so that all that oil comes out of the lemon peel and just run it around the inside rim of that glass, and then drop it in quickly.

SIEGEL: All right, and there it goes. And voila...

Ms. BROW: Now, it's time to take a sip.

SIEGEL: Okay. Thank you, I'm being handed this remarkably chilled drink. Mmm. It tastes like we're in New Orleans right now.

Ms. BROW: Oh - oh, that's awesome.

SIEGEL: It is the official drink of New Orleans at this point according to the...

Ms. BROW: It is the official drink of New Orleans. Cheers.

SIEGEL: ...Louisiana legislature. What about the Hurricane? What about those, you know, drinks they make in the things that look like a launderette?

Ms. BROW: Well, you know, we do have other drinks in New Orleans, we have Hurricanes as well, we also have a lot of mint juleps that are served here in the city, Ramos Gin Fizz.

SIEGEL: Yes. It's a very complex taste that you get from this drink after all those bitters and the rye and the lemon and all.

Ms. BROW: It is a beautiful example of a good cocktail.

SIEGEL: And at the Swizzle Stick Bar, after how many do you usually cut people off?

Ms. BROW: Well, it's really funny that you should mention that because Ti Martin, one of the managing directors of our restaurant/bar, has a quote that you should only enjoy one; you're not nearly as attractive as you think you are after two.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BROW: So you have to remember that you are drinking a real cocktail and not one with a lot of mixers in it, and it's one that you should enjoy responsibly.

SIEGEL: Well, Lu Brow, thank you very much for...

Ms. BROW: Well, thank you. Thank you.

SIEGEL: ...teaching us how to make one.

Ms. BROW: Awesome.

SIEGEL: And thanks to our mystery guest for making one here in the studio. We've been talking about the official cocktail of the city of New Orleans, the Sazerac, with Lu Brow, who is the bar chef at the Swizzle Stick Bar in New Orleans.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: If your town has an official drink or should have one, drop us a line. Alcoholic or not, we want to hear about your local beverage of choice. Better yet, we want the recipe, just go to and click on Contact Us. Be sure to put the word drink in your message line.

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