PW's Guide to Sazerac Cocktails

By Tim McGinnis
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Dec. 29, 2009

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Southwark's Sazerac is simply super.

Photo by Michael Persico

When we sat down a few months ago to write about Philly’s top cocktails, we admit we were expecting backlash from readers. What we weren’t ready for was what we actually got—crickets. Not a peep from our normally opinionated readership. So, we at Field Guide have taken it upon ourselves to critique, well, ourselves. There’s no Sazerac on our list! Invented in 1830s New Orleans by Antoine Peychaud when he mixed his namesake with cognac. The Sazerac has evolved to include rye whiskey and an anise flavored liqueur (absinthe, Herbsaint, Pernod).

If You’re a Little Simple
Southwark’s (701 S. Fourth St. 215.238.1888) co-owner/bartender extraordinaire Kip Waide is sometimes befuddled by the intense interest in his “simple little drink(s)” but deep down he knows when it comes to cocktails, less is always more. Take his Sazerac cocktail, for instance. Four ingredients—rye whiskey (we go big and ask for 23-year-old Black Maple Hill), anise-tinged liqueur Herbsaint, sugar and lemon—are blended together to create a most complex cocktail. C W F S L

If You Love New York
When we first heard about Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. (112 S. 18th St. 215.231.9911) we thought that they’d be a little too New York for our Philadelphia sensibilities. With a menu consultation from Manhattan’s own Death & Co. and their speakeasy vibe, we thought we’d be walking into a cooler-than-thou situation. However, when we arrived at the subterranean barroom we were pleasantly surprised; no password, a friendly staff and a tasty Sazerac that is distinctly Philly. One part Rittenhouse rye whiskey, one part cognac, Peychaud & Angostura’s bitters, Vieux Carre absinthe rinse and topped with a twist. C S L

If You’re Fighting Your Wallpaper
Oscar Wilde once pondered the difference “between a glass of absinthe and a sunset.” (He also died penniless in a flea-bag hotel room.) The absinthe purveyor Time (1315 Sansom St. 215.985.4800) begins the assembly of their Sazerac with a Lucid absinthe rinse foundation then builds the rest of the drink with the slightly biting flavor of Overholt rye whiskey, bitters and a finish from the sweetness of a lemon peel twist. W S L

If You Want to be Taken Care of
Philly’s famous bartendrix Katie Loeb’s philosophy to hospitality seems to be shared by all the bartenders at the Oyster House (1516 Sansom St. 215.567.7683). Try walking into a bar close to closing time with a group and ordering a laborious cocktail and getting greeted without an eye roll. That’s exactly what we did and not only did our affable barman happily ply his trade by mixing up Sazeracs made with Vieux Carre absinthe, Peychaud’s bitters, Michter’s rye whiskey and the esseential oils of a lemon twist but he showed off his mad skills by taking it up a notch with the Cocktail Louisiana. It’s the same as his Sazerac with the addition of B&B and a touch of sweet vermouth. C W F S

If You’re a Francophile
Pay tribute to the country that put the Orleans in New Orleans and the King Louis in Louisiana at Rittenhouse Square brasserie Parc (227 S. 18th St. 215.545.2262). Sit at their metal bar and toast the decadent French lifestyle with a Jim Beam rye whiskey, Kubler absinthe and Peychaud and Angostura bitters Sazerac. W F S

If You’re a Golden Boy
Leave it to the minds behind Zahav (237 St. James Place. 215.625.8800) to rethink a Sazerac and totally make it their own. Their Saz-Arak made with Kentucky’s Basil-Hayden Bourbon, French elderflower liqueur St. Germain, orange peel, orange bitters and a rinse of the Israeli aniseed-flavored liqueur Arak. The drink blends American individualism with French technique and Israeli hospitality. It’s like liquid gold. W F S N

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