Food & Drink

Sampling New Orleans’ Official Cocktail: The Sazerac

“It all begins with the Sazerac,” says cocktail historian and local tour guide Elizabeth Pearce. “As far as I know, there’s no other city with an official cocktail.” That Sazeracs are so recognized is evidence of both the drink’s historical connection to New Orleans as well as the central role drinking plays here. The cocktail is associated with a Creole apothecary named Antoine Amadie Peychaud (of the so-named aromatic Bitters). Peychaud began selling his toddies in early 19th century New Orleans, claiming that the concoction held medicinal properties (and who are we to argue otherwise?).

As Pearce notes, a Sazerac’s ingredients — Peychaud’s bittters, Herbsaint, and sugar — are intrinsically linked to the city’s history of production and trade. For instance, because of the city’s French roots, Sazeracs were originally made with Cognac; current incarnations are made with rye whiskey. It’s a duality that begs to be tried both ways. In upscale bars, you can ask for a Cognac Sazerac. Says Pearce, “A trained bartender will know why you’re asking.”

Today, you can learn all about the history of the cocktail at the Sazerac House in downtown New Orleans. Take a free, guided tour through the exhibits and taste a sample of the Sazerac. Afterwards, take Elizabeth Pearce’s walking Cocktail Tour through the French Quarter and Uptown New Orleans for a Sazerac at the best spots in town.

Six Great Spots to Sip a Sazerac in New Orleans

The Sazerac in present-day (Photo: Rebecca Todd)

The Sazerac Bar

The drink’s namesake is for a reason. Located in the Roosevelt Hotel and a former haunt of Governor Huey P. Long, the Sazerac Bar sets the standard with plush seating, exceptional service, and tasty little bar mixes served in silver trays. Make sure to look at the wall murals, by painter Paul Ninas, depicting Depression-era docks and the cotton trade. 123 Baronne St.

French 75

Named for both the attached famous restaurant and Champagne cocktail, Arnaud’s French 75 feels like the interior of a posh, Empire-era Parisian salon. It’s an intimate space with an exquisitely polished bar, tile floors, and white-jacketed bartenders. 813 Bienville St.

Sylvain

Atmosphere aplenty reigns within these charcoal walls. Built as a carriage house in the late 1790s, Sylvain combines authentic historic architecture with spare, savvy design. Mostly known as a mid-range restaurant, Sylvain can also be treated as a chic watering hole, entered via a slim walkway that feels like a secret passageway. A diminutive back courtyard offers outdoor seating. 625 Chartres St.

The Carousel Bar in Hotel Monteleone (Photo: Rebecca Todd)

The Carousel Bar

Located in the Hotel Monteleone, the Carousel Bar is a perennial favorite with both visitors and locals. Glamorous and polished, the Carousel’s latest remodeling embodies an upscale lounge feel with contemporary chandeliers and chic seating. Listen to jazz and classic piano bar standards Wednesdays-Saturdays. 214 Royal St.

Twelve Mile Limit

Distinctly not posh or upscale, this Mid-City neighborhood bar has cropped up in the past few years to become a popular destination for younger, hip crowds. Nevertheless, Twelve Mile Limit pays careful attention to cocktails, including house originals. Delicious barbecue is also served out of their kitchen. 500 S Telemachus St.

The Columns Hotel

With its thick white columns and deep shaded porch, this Uptown landmark evokes 19th century Southern gentility and offers visitors the chance to feel just a little wealthier from the first round. The Columns Hotel veranda, usually full in cool weather, is the perfect place to take in the live Oaks lining Saint Charles and watch the famous streetcar glide by. When the weather doesn’t cooperate, an ornate Gothic Victorian bar shelters drinkers from the storm. On Sundays, the Columns hosts a jazz brunch. 3811 Saint Charles Ave.

“It all begins with the Sazerac,” says cocktail historian and...

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