When made correctly, this iconic New Orleans drink packs a boozy punch.

Sazerac cocktail recipe

Matt Taylor-Gross / Food Styling by Lucy Simon

Total Time:
5 mins
1 drink

This story behind the Sazerac, a largely unassuming brown-ish drink garnished with a simple lemon peel, will surprise you. In fact, this cocktail has its own State Senate bill, and its history is rife with controversial origin stories. Composed of rye whiskey, cognac, bitters, absinthe, and a bit of sugar, this potent cocktail has an herbal sweetness with a strong backbone of whiskey.

When it comes to New Orleans cocktail culture, Neal Bodenheimer, author of Cure: New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em, knows best. The Sazerac is so integral to the cocktail history and culture of New Orleans that Bondenheimer opens his book with its recipe. “The Sazerac really is holy water for us,” writes Bodenheimer. His enthusiasm about the Sazerac and what it means to New Orleans is no hyperbole. In 2008, the state of Louisiana passed a Senate bill, RS 1420.2 in case it ever comes up during a game of Jeopardy, making the Sazerac the official cocktail for the city of New Orleans. 

But the Sazerac’s history in this city runs much deeper, and is largely contested. While many believe that the drink was invented by Atione Peychaud, creator of Peychaud’s Bitters, a key ingredient in this cocktail, true cocktail historians like Bodenheimer share a different version of the story. “Cocktail historians believe that the drink was created — or at the very least, made famous — at a saloon (or “coffee house,” as it was known at the time) called the Sazerac House,” writes Bodenheimer. At the turn of the 20th century, the Sazerac House was an exclusive, all-male establishment where patrons could talk business while imbibing copiously. Historians like Bodenheimer have “triangulated” when exactly the Sazerac became a Sazerac; in 1899, Vincent Miret, bartender at the Sazerac House might have riffed on a whiskey cocktail by including a couple dashes of Peychaud’s bitters and a bit of absinthe. 

Whether you mix up a Sazerac in its home city of New Orleans, or anywhere else around the world for that matter, reflect on its storied past as you savor every sip. Read on for everything you need to know to make a flawless Sazerac. 


  • 2 dashes Absinthe

  • 1 sugar cube

  • 3 dashes of Peychaud's Bitters

  • 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters

  • 1 1/2 ounces Cognac (such as Sazerac de Forge Cognac)

  • 1 1/2 ounces rye whiskey (such as Sazerac Rye Whiskey)

  • 1 lemon twist


  1. Rinse a chilled rocks glass with absinthe, then pour it out.

  2. In a cocktail shaker, muddle the sugar cube with both bitters. Add ice and the Cognac and rye and stir until the sugar is nearly dissolved, about 40 seconds. Strain into the prepared rocks glass.

  3. Twist the lemon twist over the drink for garnish.

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