At first glance, this cocktail looks like a twist on the Old Fashioned with a splash of absinthe and specialty bitters, but the backstory is a bit more complicated. Born in New Orleans in the mid 1800s at the Sazerac Coffee House, the original recipe featured French cognac. But in the late-19th century, the phylloxera outbreak caused shortage of grapes, and therefore cognac. In the absence of the drink’s original spirit, rye whiskey became the defacto base. The Sazerac morphed again when absinthe became illegal in 1912, and a local pastis made from botanicals meant to approximate the taste of absinthe, Herbsaint, was subbed in. In 2007, absinthe became legal again in the U.S. and most bartenders have reverted back. The bold flavors in the drink—anise, spicy rye and herbal absinthe—make this one of the most beloved drinks in the canon of classic cocktails.
- 2 ounces rye
- 1 sugar cube (see Editor's Note below)
- 1 splash soda water
- 2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
- 1 splash absinthe
Garnish: lemon peel
- In a rocks glass, add a dash of absinthe and swirl to coat. Discard.
- In another rocks or mixing glass, muddle sugar cube or sugar with soda water.
- Once dissolved, add rye, bitters and ice and stir well.
- Strain rye and bitters mixture into the prepared rocks glass.
- Garnish with a lemon peel.
If you don't have sugar cubes on hand, a teaspoon of sugar or a heaping 1/4 ounce of simple syrup will do the trick.