New Orleans's Classic Sazerac Recipe

Updated November 9, 2021
Classic Sazerac



  1. Chill a rocks glass.
  2. Rinse chilled glass with absinthe, discarding the rest.
  3. In a second rocks glass, add ice, whiskey, bitters, and simple syrup.
  4. Stir to chill.
  5. Strain into prepared glass over fresh ice.
  6. Garnish with lemon peel.

Variations and Substitutions

Like many drinks of historical caliber, there will always be several ways to shake a cocktail. Whatever recipe, variation, or substitution you follow, you'll still find a Sazerac at the bottom of your glass.

  • You can serve a Sazerac over fresh ice, a king cube, or neat in a rocks glass.
  • If you don't care for rye, you can use bourbon instead.
  • Cognac is also a possible base spirit; use one ounce each of cognac and whiskey.
  • In addition to Peychaud's bitters, you can use orange, walnut, or rhubarb bitters.
  • Instead of simple syrup, consider using raspberry liqueur to add a hint of sweetness with a punch of berry flavor.
  • For something a bit livelier than the regular Sazerac, cut the rye whiskey in half and add equal parts moonshine. But proceed with caution.

Although it is a classic cocktail, there are a few recipes used to create this cocktail.

  • In a mixing glass, muddle a sugar cube with three dashes of Peychaud's bitters and one dash of aromatic bitters. Add ice, one ounce each of bourbon and cognac, stirring rapidly to chill. Strain into an absinthe rinsed rocks glass, and serve either neat or with fresh ice.
  • Some recipes call for approximately an eighth of an ounce of cold water to be added, and others call for two ounces.


The traditional Sazerac garnish might be a lemon twist, but that doesn't mean you can't dream big or play it safe. Whatever makes your parade march.

  • If you still want a lemon flavor, use a lemon wheel, slice, or wedge.
  • To boost the look of the classic lemon peel, use a lemon ribbon for a fancier, decadent touch.
  • Orange also complements the spirit flavors in a Sazerac, which means an orange wheel, wedge, or slice all complete a Sazerac nicely.
  • For less of an orange flavor, use an orange peel, twist, or ribbon.
  • A dehydrated citrus wheel makes the stoic Sazerac look and feel even more extravagant.
  • Flame the citrus peel, whether lemon or orange, to make a Sazerac that pleases all of the senses.

About the Sazerac

History cites the Sazerac drink recipe as America's first cocktail, born in 19th century Louisiana. Originating in New Orleans' French Quarter, this drink quickly grew popular among various European and Colonial visitors, joining a long list of originals to come out of the bayou. Today, tourists tend to favor ordering Hurricanes when visiting the area as part of the infamous Mardi Gras celebrations, but locals and in-the-know visitors choose to sip on Sazeracs year-round.

The Sazerac Coffee House on Royal Street--"coffee house" being the term to describe saloons of the era--is home to the first Sazerac. There's debate over who actually created this cocktail. Still, the Sazerac company attributes Thomas H. Handy Sazerac as the one who first mixed the region's famous rye whiskey with Peychaud's bitters and served the drink to local clients.

Unlike many cocktails, the Sazerac involves a fair number of ingredients and multiple mixing glasses for a standard preparation. With the Sazerac, practice makes perfect, as the number of steps and components can easily trip anyone up.

Settle in With a Sazerac

Whether you want to enjoy America's first cocktail in its original form or by playing with flavors and ingredients to modernize it, you're sure to enjoy settling in with a Sazerac in hand. But respect the Sazerac, don't head straight for this cocktail on an empty stomach after hitting the gym. You'll find yourself tucked in for an afternoon nap. Next, if you like that touch of herbal flavor from the absinthe, you might also enjoy Galliano cocktails.

New Orleans's Classic Sazerac Recipe