Thursday, July 26, 2007
The Case of the Sweet Sazerac
I enjoyed a good many Sazeracs while in New Orleans attending "Tales of the Cocktail." I freely admit to never having experienced this drink until exactly one year ago (last year's TOTC). Still, in the 12 months since then, it has easily become my favorite cocktail. I love the fussy preparation that goes into the making of it, the rarity of some of the ingredients (most American bars are not equipped with Peychaud bitters, Herbsaint or even Rye), and find the layers of flavors to be profound. The drink lends itself simultaneously to rapturous enjoyment and deep contemplation.
Still, being I novice, I do not pretend to know everything about this cocktail's journey through time and space. And so—after imagining I was having the best Sazeracs in my life last week—I was surprised when a gentleman at the cocktail bloggers panel informed my that no less an authority than Robert "Drinkboy" Hess has been theorizing that bartenders have been erring on the sweet side regarding their Sazeracs, adding too much simple syrup.
My mouth dropped open. Had I been enjoying bastardized Sazeracs? Did I know a true Sazerac when I saw it? Hess' theory is that bartenders in New Orleans, catering to the louche crowd on Bourbon Street, have been tarting up their Sazeracs to appeal to infantile taste buds. Could be. Could be. My mind reeled. After that, all the Sazeracs I had drunk seemed insipid. Well, not insipid, just too sugary. Hess might have something there, I thought.
Still, upon further contemplation, I had to admit, I still thought the Sazeracs were damn enjoyable. Perhaps too sweet. In fact, definitely sweeter than the more academic Sazeracs I had had in New York, or even the ones I make at home. Gotham bartenders don't use simple syrup. They're such wonks, and so tied to theory, they muddle a sugar cube, and so the sweetness ratio remains unchanged from drink to drink.
But I enjoyed those Sazeracs, too! My conclusion? I just like Sazeracs. A little variation can't destroy the pleasures of this drink. Just make sure it's properly chilled, and don't feed me any fucking Bourbon.