The Sazerac: America’s First Cocktail

The Sazerac: America’s First Cocktail

In honor of Mardi Gras, let’s take a look at the history of the official cocktail of New Orleans. (And our personal favorite Sazerac recipe!)


The emergence of the traditional Sazerac cocktail is somewhat disputed by drink historians & enthusiasts around the globe. Most agree the cocktail was born in New Orleans around 1840 and named after its original main ingredient of Sazerac de Forge et Fils, a French brandy.

The official Sazerac website lists Antoine Amedie Peychaud, owner of a New Orleans apothecary, as the initial creator. It is said he would treat his friends to brandy toddies using his own bitters, which are still used in the official recipe today.

According to legend, the Sazerac mixed drink is also deemed to be the first cocktail ever. Apparently, Peychaud used a “coquetier” (pronounced “ko-k-tay”) for mixing, from which the word “cocktail” is said to have derived due to an Americanized mispronunciation of the French word.


Since its inception, the Sazerac has gone through a few ingredient alterations, but the flavour has always remained fairly true to itself.

The recipe originally called for cognac, specifically the French brandy which gave the cocktail its name. In the late 1800s, mixers of the drink began to substitute American rye whiskey for the French brandy because shiploads were easily received down the Mississippi versus importing from Europe.

Then, when absinthe was banned from the United States in 1912, anise-flavored substitutes (popularly Herbsaint in New Orleans) were used for the rinse to maintain the licorice aftertaste.

The type of bitters has changed throughout the years. The current official recipe calls for Peychaud’s bitters (made by the man who supposedly invented the drink himself), though the first official recipe published in 1908 called for a different kind.

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There are quite a few recipes out there for the Sazerac – some more traditional than others – but the one we like the best (found on blends both old and new, using equal parts cognac & rye whiskey along with 2 kinds of bitters.


  • Absinthe, to rinse
    • Recommended: Leopold Bros Absinthe Verte, $75.99
  • 1 sugar cube
  • 1/2 tsp cold water
  • 3 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
  • 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • 1.25 oz rye whiskey
    • Recommended: Four Roses Kentucky Bourbon, $26.99
  • 1.25 oz Cognac
    • Recommended: Delamain Cognac, $125
  • Lemon peel, to garnish


  • Rinse a chilled rocks glass with absinthe, discarding any excess, and set aside.
  • In a mixing glass, muddle the sugar cube, water and both bitters.
  • Add the rye and cognac fill with ice, and stir until well-chilled.
  • In a mixing glass, muddle the sugar cube, water and both bitters.
  • Twist a slice of lemon peel over the surface to extract the oils and then discard.


The Sazerac may or may not be America’s first cocktail, but it’s definitely a wonderful part of our history. Rinse, muddle, swill & savor the taste of a classic New Orlean’s mixed drink.

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