Rinse an Old Fashioned glass with absinthe, fill with crushed ice and set aside.
Add sugar cubes to a mixing glass, top with bitters, then use a muddler to break up cubes. Add 1 oz water and mix until sugar dissolves. Fill with ice, add armagnac, and stir to chill.Dump ice and excess absinthe from the Old Fashioned glass and strain the drink into it.
Garnish with a lemon twist.
The Sazerac was created in New Orleans in 1838 by Antoine Amedie Peychaud, an apothecary who created a liquid tonic called Peychaud’s Bitters. Given the fact that just 35 years prior, New Orleans was part of France, French cognac was a popular spirit in the city, and Peychaud mixed it into what was basically an old fashioned, using water, sugar and his aromatic bitters.
In the coming years, The Sazerac, as it became known due to the brand of cognac employed, was a hit and undoubtedly moved a fair amount of tincture for Peychaud. In the 1870s, an infestation, phylloxera, ravaged the grape vineyards in Europe and created a cognac shortage that led folks to use rye with a dash of absinthe instead.
My twist on the Sazerac harkens back to the original recipe, using French brandy, in this case Armagnac, which I think of as cognac’s country cousin – less refined, but more fun. I found the use of Peychaud’s Bitters alone to be a bit thin (sorry, Antoine), so I’ve added an equal amount of Angostura Bitters, and, finally, I toss the lemon twist into the cocktail because that’s the way I like it.
Consider setting up a Sazeracanac bar for your next party. It’s a great icebreaker for guests and fairly simple once people get the hang of it. Set out all of the ingredients, an ice bucket, a jigger, muddler, strainer, pitcher of water, swizzle sticks and a few Old Fashioned glasses. Print recipe cards that your guests can reference, then take home as souvenirs. Your revelers will leave your party with good memories and new skills. Who doesn’t like that?