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Cotswold Cocktail School - Sazerac Cocktail Recipe

ABV 30% / 2.4 alcoholic units

Primary spirit: Whiskey

A Brief History of the Sazerac Cocktail

The origins of the Sazerac can be traced back to the early 19th century in New Orleans, Louisiana. Originally crafted with French brandy, the cocktail evolved over time to incorporate rye whiskey due to its popularity in America and Cognac supply. The Sazerac is closely associated with the Sazerac Coffee House, where it was first served in the 1830s. Over the years, the cocktail became a symbol of New Orleans' vibrant cocktail culture, surviving Prohibition and undergoing various adaptations while maintaining its core essence.

Today, the Sazerac remains a beloved emblem of Southern hospitality and cocktail craftsmanship.

Taste and Flavour Profile

The Sazerac Cocktail is celebrated for its distinct and complex flavour profile:

  • Rye Whiskey: The heart of the Sazerac, rye whiskey offers a robust and spicy character with notes of oak, caramel, and a touch of pepper. It forms the cocktail's strong and warming base.
  • Cognac:  The flavor of cognac is characterised by its rich and smooth profile, featuring notes of dried fruits, oak, vanilla, caramel, and a subtle hint of floral and spice.
  • Absinthe Rinse: A rinse of absinthe adds a subtle anise and herbal quality that elegantly lingers in the background.
  • Peychaud's Bitters: Peychaud's bitters, a quintessential ingredient in the Sazerac, impart a delicate and aromatic profile with hints of anise, herbs, and red fruits.
  • Simple Syrup: A touch of simple syrup provides a balanced sweetness that harmonises the flavours.
  • Lemon Twist: A lemon twist adds a bright and citrusy element that complements the cocktail and enhances its aromatic qualities.

The result is a cocktail that's simultaneously bold and refined, with a timeless and intriguing complexity—a tribute to New Orleans' captivating history.

Food Pairings

Enhance your Sazerac Cocktail experience with these delightful food pairings:

  • Creole and Cajun Cuisine: The Sazerac complements the bold and flavorful dishes of Creole and Cajun cuisine, such as gumbo, jambalaya, or blackened fish.
  • Oysters: Enjoy the cocktail with fresh oysters on the half shell, a classic New Orleans delicacy.
  • Cheese and Charcuterie: A selection of artisanal cheeses and charcuterie pairs beautifully with the Sazerac's complexity.
  • Pralines: Savor pralines or pecan desserts as a sweet accompaniment to the cocktail.

Bar Equipment

  • Mixing glass
  • Jigger
  • Hawthorne strainer
  • Rocks/Old fashioned glass


  • 45ml Cognac
  • 15ml Rye Whiskey
  • 1 sugar cube (or 5ml of simple syrup)
  • 2-3 dashes Peychaud's bitters
  • Absinthe rinse
  • Lemon twist
  • Ice cubes (for stirring)


  • Rinse a chilled rocks glass with a small amount of absinthe, swirling it around to coat the glass. Discard any excess
  • In a separate mixing glass, muddle the sugar cube with a few dashes of water (or use simple syrup) to dissolve the sugar
  • Add the rye whiskey and ice to the mixing glass and stir until well-chilled for 30 seconds
  • Strain the mixture into the absinthe-rinsed glass
  • Garnish with a lemon twist, expressed over the glass, and then discard or drop it into the drink.

What's the best Rye Whiskey and Cognac for a Sazerac?

The best rye whiskey for a Sazerac Cocktail is typically a high-quality, straight rye whiskey with a bold and spicy flavor profile. The choice of rye whiskey is central to the character of the cocktail, and it should have the complexity and strength to stand out amidst the other ingredients. Here are some recommended rye whiskeys that work exceptionally well in a Sazerac:

  • Sazerac Rye: The namesake of the cocktail, Sazerac Rye is a popular and classic choice. It has a balanced spiciness and is known for its affinity with the cocktail.
  • Bulleit Rye: Bulleit Rye offers a robust and peppery flavour with notes of caramel and vanilla, making it a suitable match for the Sazerac.
  • Rittenhouse Rye: Rittenhouse Rye is a versatile and affordable rye whiskey with a rich, spicy character. It's often preferred by many bartenders for classic cocktails.
  • WhistlePig Straight Rye: WhistlePig is a premium rye whiskey with a bold and complex flavour profile, featuring notes of oak, spice, and caramel.
  • High West Rendezvous Rye: High West Rendezvous Rye is a blend of two rye whiskeys, offering a balanced and flavourful base for the Sazerac.
  • Basil Hayden's Dark Rye: This rye whiskey is known for its rich and sweet character, with added depth from a blend of Kentucky and Canadian rye.

When choosing a rye whiskey for your Sazerac, aim for a bottle that aligns with your personal taste preferences. Traditionalists often prefer rye whiskeys with higher rye content for an extra spicy kick. Keep in mind that rye whiskey can vary in flavour profile, so exploring different brands and expressions is an enjoyable way to find the perfect match for your Sazerac Cocktail.

For a Sazerac cocktail that includes cognac, it's best to choose a cognac that offers depth and character, with enough complexity to complement the cocktail's other components. Look for a cognac that falls within the VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) or XO (Extra Old) categories, as these tend to have richer flavours and more complexity, making them better suited for mixing in cocktails.

Here are a few cognacs that could work well in a Sazerac cocktail:

  • Hennessy VSOP:  This is a versatile and widely available cognac that balances rich flavors with smoothness, making it a great choice for cocktails like the Sazerac.

  • Rémy Martin VSOP: Known for its well-rounded and complex flavor profile, Rémy Martin VSOP adds depth and sophistication to the Sazerac.

  • Courvoisier VSOP: Another excellent choice, Courvoisier VSOP offers a blend of floral and fruity notes with a smooth finish, enhancing the overall character of the cocktail.

  • When using cognac in a Sazerac cocktail, keep in mind that it will impart a sweeter and more rounded flavor profile compared to the traditional rye whiskey. Adjust the proportions and other ingredients accordingly to achieve the desired balance of flavors. While cognac may not be the traditional choice for a Sazerac, experimenting with different spirits can lead to exciting and delicious variations on this classic cocktail.

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