Denver has amassed a small but significant number of bars and restaurants doing craft cocktails. It’s not uncommon for the neighborhood local to have a few copper mugs behind the bar for a proper moscow mule, a few julep tins are even lurking in unexpected corners. Unfortunately, Manhattans are still being shaken to death and garnished with nuclear cherries, sour mix creeps into margaritas and daiquiris, but cocktail offenses aside, Denver is learning to drink well again.
It’s well within the bounds to riff on the classics creating something within the house style. One could have 15 different mojitos at 15 different bars and have all 15 of them be unique and delicious. Some cocktails demand consistency, their simplicity in preparation and ingredients is what makes the drink work. It’s arresting to see these cocktails listed on menus and see their preparation butchered and have people turned off from trying them forever.
Few cocktails have an understood spec like the Sazerac. To put it simply, there are Sazeracs, and there is everything else.
From the Savoy Cocktail book:
- 1 lump of sugar
- 1 dash Angostura or Peychana (sic) bitters
- 1 glass rye or Canadian Club Whisky
Stir well and strain into another glass that has been cooled and rinsed with one dash of absinthe and squeeze lemon peel on top.
From David A. Embury’s “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks”
This is the Sazerac that we make at Colt & Gray
Fill a small Old-Fashiioned glasses with finely crushed ice and set aside to chill. Put into pre-chilled bar glass or pitcher for each drink:
- 1 teaspoonful Sugar Syrup (we use 1/2t rich syrup)
- 3 dashes Peychaud Bitters
- 2 to 2.5 ounces Whisky (2oz Old Overholt, or rye whisky of choice. Cognac can also be substituted)
Stir with large ice cubes until thoroughly chilled. Empty the Old-Fashioned glasses. Put 1 dash of abisnthe in each glass and twirl glasses until the inside is thoroughly rinsed with the absinthe, throwing out any excess liquid. Strain liquor into the chilled and rinsed glasses. Twist of strip of lemon peel over each drink and drop into glass for decoration (we discard the peel after releasing the oils for aesthetic reasons). Serve with a glass of ice water on the side as a chaser.
This is a cocktail that brings ritual to a whole new level. When made properly it’s glorious, when made callously it smells and tastes like the aborted step-child of Good & Plenty. The combination of sugar, bitters, and liquor puts it solidly in the Old-Fashioned camp of cocktail, the addition of absinthe could merit an “improved” distinction. Sazeracs are not served in cocktail glasses, and they aren’t served with ice. The ritual of rinsing out the glass with the absinthe is what makes this a drink, a bartender should never take short-cuts such as just seasoning the chilling ice, or adding the absinthe to the cocktail, embrace the ritual and be rewarded with a drink that is one of the oldest in the classical cannon.
Tags: absinthe, Angostura, barcode, cognac, colt gray, liquor, old fashioned, Old Overholt, peychaud bitters, Rye whiskey, savoy cocktail book, Sazerac, simple syrup, the fine art of mixing drinks, whiskey, Whisky