The Sazerac cocktail has a rich history in American cocktail culture, with a past that predates the American Civil War. The mixture of rye whiskey, or cognac, with Peychaud’s bitters and sugar has also quickly become Distiller Tom Lenerz’s blend of choice at Wollersheim Distillery’s cocktail bar, since the recent release of Round Top Rye Whiskey.

But what is a Sazerac? And more interestingly – where did it come from?

The Sazerac cocktail has Cajun roots and claims its hometown as The Big Easy – New Orleans, Louisiana. More precisely, a mixture of brandy and homemade bitters were served to friends in the late 1830’s by a local apothecary named Antoine Amedie Peychaud – the creator of Peychaud’s bitters, which are still commonly used today and are currently available at Wollersheim Distillery.

By the year 1850 the cocktail had become tremendously popular and the notoriety had convinced a local bar owner named Sewell T. Taylor to sell his bar – The Merchants Exchange Coffee House – and to begin importing spirits. One of the spirits he brought overseas was a variety of cognac called Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils, which would become the origin of the Sazerac Cocktail’s name.

A man named Aaron Bird bought The Coffee House and changed its name to The Sazerac Coffee House. Bird began serving Taylor’s French cognac brandy with the local apothecary’s bitters and the Sazerac Cocktail was born. Over the years the Sazerac Coffee House changed hands and around the year 1870 Thomas Handy took over the establishment. Due to a pest outbreak that devastated many of Europe’s vineyards, Handy soon decided to change the cocktail’s spirit base to rye whiskey.

Today, the Sazerac has regained popularity with its innate simplicity, combined with a sweet and spicy herbal combination that keeps you coming back for more. While the Sazerac is now made with brandy, rye whiskey or bourbon, the most important part of what makes a Sazerac a Sazerac, comes in the preparation.  You will need two Old-Fashioned glasses – one which will receive an absinthe or herbsaint rinse, and the other which will be used to chill and combine the remainder of the ingredients before they are strained into the first glass.

Wollersheim Distillery – Official Sazerac Recipe

  • 2 oz Round Top Rye Whiskey (or Coquard Brandy)
  • ¼ oz Simple Syrup
  • 4 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
  • Dancehall Absinthe Blanche Rinse
  • Garnish with Lemon Peel
  1. In a rocks glass add a dash of absinthe and swirl to coat.
  2. Discard any excess.
  3. In a mixing glass add Round Top Rye Whiskey (or Coquard brandy) simple syrup and bitters.
  4. Add ice and stir until well chilled.
  5. Strain into the prepared rocks glass.
  6. Express lemon peel over cocktail and discard.
  7. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

To try a Wollersheim Sazerac cocktail, stop by our distillery in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin. You can also visit our website at Wollersheim.com for more wonderful cocktail recipes.