Every scholarly bartender knows about Antoine Peychaud, the pharmacist whose bitters were instrumental in the invention of the Sazerac. But there were two other men without whom the classic cocktail would not exist: Sewell Taylor, who imported Sazerac brand Cognac, and Aaron Bird, who owned the Exchange Place Coffee House (later renamed the Sazerac Coffee House), home of the original recipe. At the hit cocktail destination SoBou in New Orleans’s French Quarter, bartender Abigail Gullo pays homage to the two lesser-known fathers of New Orleans’s official cocktail with her Taylor Bird Sazerac.
Watch her make the sazerac via step-by-step GIFS on F&W's Tumblr. Gullo pours one ounce of Cognac and one ounce of rye whiskey into a mixing glass with cracked ice. She adds dashes of both the classic Peychaud’s bitters and orange bitters, which bring out the fruitiness of the Cognac. In place of the usual sugar, Gullo uses Steen’s cane syrup, a thick, overcooked sugar syrup native to Louisiana. After stirring those ingredients, she strains the cocktail into a chilled rocks glass that has been coated with both Herbsaint and absinthe for a fantastic, herbaceous flavor and aroma. Gullo finishes the cocktail with a spritz of lemon oil and a lemon peel garnish.
The Taylor Bird isn’t the only Sazerac variation in Gullo’s repertoire. She suggests trying a wide variety of brown spirits in place of the classic Cognac or rye—as long as you don’t use bourbon. “I’ve heard of people doing bourbon Sazeracs and I’m not going to judge them,” she says. “But let’s just say they may get some questions from their maker. The Sazerac gods do not approve of bourbon.” Here are two seasonal Sazerac variations from Gullo:
Fall Sazerac: “I make a rum Sazerac that is really, really good. I use Old New Orleans Cajun Spice Rum. With the absinthe and the Steen’s cane syrup, which has that little molasses flavor, it tastes like pumpkin-pie spices.” For bitters, use the classic Peychaud’s.
Winter Sazerac: For a holiday Sazerac, Gullo suggests swapping in Armagnac. “It’s a little bit earthier than Cognac and has a little bit more funk to it. It has some deep, rich flavors that make a beautiful Sazerac.” For bitters, Gullo likes either the Bitter Truth’s Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter bitters, which has hints of clove and cinnamon and star anise, or Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Aromatic bitters, whose allspice flavors pair well with the Armagnac.