What’s in a name? A Sazerac by any other names is a…rye? A cocktail? A Coffee House? A long defunct cognac? Language is a funny thing.
When we say ‘cocktail’ these days it tends to be as a catchall for ‘mixed drink’ but that’s essentially the equivalent of calling all steaks fillets. A cocktail is a very specific type of drink made from spirit, sugar, bitters and water, usually in the form of ice. Or as it’s often called today: an Old Fashioned.
And just like today where you may call for a Elijah Craig Old Fashioned, you would have called for a Sazerac Cocktail, made with cognac from Sazerac-du-Forge et Fils which was imported by the Sazerac House in New Orleans. Being very French the New Orleans drinkers loved to ‘improve’ up their cocktails with just a dash of absinthe and Bam! A Sazerac Cocktail.
But at the turn of the century the phylloxera plaque struck Europe wiping out old vineyards laying waste to innumerable wine and cognac house. As the supply of cognac dwindled, New Orleans drinkers turned to what was readily available to them: Rye Whiskey and gave birth to the Zazerac. Yes, Zazerac with a Z. Language is fun, and by distinguishing the proper names drinkers could quickly indicated whether they wanted the brandy or the whiskey version. Confused? You’re probably not the only one. In the Artistry of Mixing Drinks by Frank Meir published in 1934 he says, “Note. – there is much confusion between the ‘Sazerac’ brandy cocktail and the ‘Zazerac’ cocktail originally made in New Orleans.” So the ‘Zazerac’ name gathers dust while the actual drink gathers steam.
“Note. – there is much confusion between the ‘Sazerac’ brandy cocktail and the ‘Zazerac’ cocktail originally made in New Orleans.”
Time passes and a new Sazerac house rises, this time an American Liquor Company named that owns and distills Buffalo Trace and a myriad of other bourbons, but also an Eponymous Rye Whiskey named: Sazerac. And it’s damn good. Bright, crisp apple, dry rye spice, with a touch of that southern air on the nose. But is it Sazerac? In name only.
In honor of the spirit of the spirit, share a few Sazerac Zazeracs tonight