Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Great Sazerac Bitters Test

The Sazerac

I am a fan of the Sazerac. To me, it is the quintessential cocktail: a  mixture of whiskey, a hint of absinthe, bitters, sugar, and a lemon peel. I have been making them for years, and I have settled on my preferred, although nonstandard, recipe. I merely combine with ice:
  • 2 oz Old Overholt
  • 1/4 oz Herbsaint
  • 4 dashes bitters
  • 1/4 oz simple syrup
strain into a highball glass and twist a lemon peel on the top. Rub the lemon peel around the top of the drink, and then plop it in. It's nonstandard because I don't rinse the glass with the Herbsaint. Instead, I just add 1/4 oz of the stuff. It's more than you would get from a rinse, but I like it that way. I like the mixture of the Herbsaint with the rye whiskey, so I like a little more of it, and I don't like the idea of throwing that little bit of liquor down the drain.

I have traditionally used a mixture of Peychaud's and Angostura bitters, two dashes of each, but then I got hold of the Fee Brothers Old Fashion Aromatic Bitters, so I began using it solely. But I wanted to a do a taste test to figure out which was the best.

The Sazerac Bitters Test

So I went about my test. I made four Sazeracs at the same time, merely quadrupling the recipe above. For the bitters, I used this configuration:

  • Peychaud's
  • Peychaud's + Angostura
  • Peychaud's + Old Fashion
  • Old Fashion

The Sazerac Bitters Test Results

Peychaud's. Peychaud's is the traditional version, so I wanted to use it as the common denominator, but I like the Old Fashion Aromatic bitters so much, I wanted to use it by itself, as well. Since the Sazerac is a New Orleans drink, it makes sense that it would use its home bitters, Peychaud's. But Peychaud's is too sweet. It doesn't have enough of that spicy bitters flavor, and it seems rather one dimensional, especially after trying the others.

Peychaud's + Angostura. This version is one of my favorites. Yes, it is the version I started with, and it is the version I end up with. It has the Peychaud's sweetness with the spiciness of the Angostura. It works all over the mouth, tingling the back of the throat mainly.

Peychaud's + Old Fashion. These two don't work well together. They compete with one another instead of complementing one another, and the result is sweet with a slight tingling on the roof of the mouth instead of dancing all over like the Peychaud's + Angostura. Instead, it just adds in a little savoriness.

Fee Brothers Old Fashion Aromatic Bitters. This one is good, and it competes with the Peychaud's + Angostura for best Sazerac. The savory spiciness of the Old Fashion Bitters mixes with the Herbasint and the rye notes by covering the entire mouth in bold flavors. Cloves come out, along with deeper notes of wood. It's like taking the traditional Sazerac and cooking it with dark chocolate or even chicken stock. What I mean is that it takes it someplace unusual, unexpected. It hits the back of the throat with alcohol burn but covers the front with all sorts of spices.

So the verdict of the Great Sazerac Bitters Test is that I have two favorites: Peychaud's + Angostura and Old Fashion Aromatic Bitters. If my friends like traditional Sazeracs, I will try to tempt them with the new bitters, but if they insist, the old standby of Perchaud's + Angostura is still great.

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