July 21st, 2011
This week, I’m heading south to The Big Easy – it’s time for Tales of the Cocktail, a spirited gathering of cocktail enthusiasts and talented mixologists from around the world! What better place to hold an event like this than New Orleans, a city known for its party-town attitude and great foods and drinks and of course the birthplace of the cocktail as we know it.
Speaking of its libatious history, the French Quarter circa 1830 set the stage for apothecary Antoine Peychaud, a Creole immigrant, to create the famous Peychaud’s Bitters. Bitters had long been used for medicinal purposes, said to cure everything from indigestion to jaundice and “hysteria” in women, but Peychaud’s secret family recipe, mixed with brandy was the concoction he delighted his friends with after hours. As if he wasn’t making enough of a contribution to mixology as we know it, he served his guests from eggcups, known as ‘coquetiers’ (pronounced ko-ke-tays), which evolved into the word cocktail. Good thinking, Antoine.
The drink caught on, particularly at The Sazerac Coffeehouse where it earned its name, made the switch from brandy to rye and gained a dash of absinthe. The rest is history!
And speaking of bitters – a lot of people ask me what the heck to do with bitters. I consider them the salt and pepper of cocktails. When a drink just needs that little extra something, throw in a dash of bitters. They add complexity and depth of flavor … I can’t imagine that Sazerac without them!
So, wherever you might be this week, raise a glass with me to magical New Orleans, the Sazerac, and the pioneers of cocktail creation like Antoine Peychaud and all my friends at Tales of the Cocktail!
Makes 1 cocktail
1/4 oz Ricard or absinthe
2 oz rye
1/4 oz Simple Syrup
4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Garnish: Wide lemon disk
Rinse a chilled Old Fashioned glass with Ricard or absinthe; set aside. In a mixing glass, measure in the rye, syrup and bitters. Fill mixing glass 3/4 full with ice and stir swiftly for 20 seconds. Strain into liqueur-rinsed glass without ice. Squeeze lemon disk over top of drink then drop in.