Legend carries forward the name of one Antoine Amedie Peychaud, the proprietor of a local apothecary, as the inventor of the Sazerac cocktail. During a time in history when an apothecary was part pharmacy and part bar—and sometimes steeped in the overblown or downright erroneous claims of the healing properties of “snake oil”—Peychaud likely served his concoction to treat severe stomach ailments.
Though there are disputes that cast doubt on the exact origins of the term cocktail, the Sazerac’s provenance is less murky. From 1838, Peychaud’s apothecary served up a mixture of French brandy with the family recipe for bitters. Since then, the Sazerac recipe has mutated to replace brandy with American rye whiskey and added a dash of absinthe. In 1933, the Sazerac Company began to bottle and sell the Sazerac cocktail, soon incorporating Herbsaint as a substitute for absinthe after the U.S. government instituted what became a century-long ban. Today, the Sazerac Company’s official Sazerac recipe uses Sazerac Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey, along with Herbsaint, Peychaud’s Bitters, a lemon peel, and a sugar cube.
The Sazerac’s storied history is now available for viewing and tasting at the Sazerac Company’s Sazerac House, which also contains the Sazerac Company’s headquarters and a gift shop. A museum of sorts, the Sazerac House is an interactive space with exhibits across three floors to learn about the drink’s history, the distilling methods for Sazerac Rye, and the handcrafting techniques in Peychaud’s Bitters. The Sazerac House opens to the public on October 2.
Visiting the Sazerac House
Location: 101 Magazine St.
Hours: Wednesday through Saturday from 1:00 to 6:00 p.m.
Tickets: Free, but tickets are required
Visitors can take self-guided tours of the Sazerac House’s exhibits, which take about 50 minutes.
Floor One: The Distillery
Not only does this exhibit provide insight into the distilling process for Sazerac Rye whiskey, the main ingredient for the Sazerac, but it grants front row seats for viewing the Sazerac Company’s whisky makers.
Floor Two: The Art of Our Craft
Take a pit stop to “liquor up” before heading up to the third floor. Sample an array of the Sazerac Company’s spirits and learn about pairings. Guests ages 21 and over can enjoy complimentary samples.
Floor Three: New Orleans Heritage
The final exhibit space showcases New Orleans’ cocktail culture which emerged in the 19th century.
In addition to the museum, the Sazerac House will also offer events, including tastings and seminars. The Drink and Learn series includes lectures on a wide range of related topics including the apothecary’s role in the origin of cocktails (October 31) and Creole holidays cocktails (December 12). Other upcoming events include a whiskey and chocolate pairing (November 19), a repeal day celebration (December 5), and a cheese and whiskey tasting.