Ultimately another variation of the pre-prohibition “Whiskey Cocktail“, the sazerac is a cocktail that originated in New Orleans. Believed by some to be the oldest cocktail in America, with documented examples of the drink being made prior to the American Civil War.
Things were complicated for almost a century with the Sazerac though, with absinthe being banned in the US from 1912-2007. The reasons for the ban are hazy, particularly as for much of that time it wasn’t really illegal at all, it was just never approved for import. Thankfully there are many good varieties of absinthe available today, which gives the aromatic that is critical for a proper sazerac.
The other particular for a sazerac is whether to use rye or cognac. Although both make a great cocktail the simple answer is that cognac is more authentic as to what you would have gotten in the 1860’s, as French imported cognac was actually what gave the cocktail its name. From a flavor perspective however, rye is usually the preferred spirit to use for the cocktail. The spicy and boozy flavor of the rye is a much better compliment for the aromatic absinthe and Peychaud’s bitters, and therefore if you are going for flavor…stick with the rye, which is also what you will find in NOLA today.
Start with putting the sugar into an old fashioned glass with a few drops of water and the bitters. Stir well to dissolve the sugar, the add the rye and ice. Stir until well chilled. Chill another glass and once the cocktail is ready coat the inside of the glass with absinthe, discarding the remainder. Strain your sazerac into the freshly coated glass and enjoy.