Most of the cocktail folks are well aquainted with and knows the history of Peychaud`s bitters but i think its interesting enough to write about and for those who doesn`t know here it is in a short version:
We must go back to the 1793 when Antoine Amedèe Peychaud, a creole of a french family who was an apothecary went to New Orleans, Louisiana while his sister went to Paris during the insurrection of Saint-Domingue. He brought with him to New Orleans his family recipe which was a secret formula for a tonic called bitters.
He opened a pharmacy shop with his sister – who he had brought over from Paris – on 437 Royal Street where today there`s an antique shop. He used to serve friends and other folks who needed “a little something” for their stomachs – some brandy made better with his bitters and of course his bitters, like other bitters – were used to cure all kinds of illnesses.
His bitters soon became famous and were sold at the coffee houses in town. “Coffee houses” were where drinks were served – known today as bars;-)
He served his bitters spiked brandy, some water and sugar and according to the legend served it in a double-end egg cup called coquetier (ko-k-ta`y) which probably was the fore runner of the jigger – and as the legend has it – the name is the fore runner to the word “cocktail” But really – the word “cocktail” is actually much older than that but opinions vary.
Peychauds bitters naturally leads us to the Sazerac.
This is one of the cocktails that i love the most. Born on Royal st in a bar that no longer is there – but in the sidewalk still remains lettered the word “SAZERAC” – this is where the entrance to the bar was. Originally it was made with a cognac brand called “Sazerac-Forge-et Fils” from Limoges, France.
This cognac and peychauds drink was drunk at the Sazerac Coffee House but the cognac was substituted with rye sometimes around 1870 because cognac was harder to find. At the same time when Thomas Handy took over the Sazerac Coffee House it became the Sazerac House. This is also when the absinthe started to be used in this drink – until it was as you know – banned and replaced by herbsaint which now has come back in its original state.
In 1949 the bar moved to Roosevelt Hotel ( former Grunewald Hotel ) which in 1965 became the Fairmont Hotel – badly damaged and closed after Katrina and the federal flood in 2005 – but eventually it was purchased to become a Waldorf Astoria hotel and got back its former name Roosevelt ( which was a name in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt) And in 2009 the Roosevelt New Orleans officially opened and there the Sazerac bar and restaurant is today.
Did you know that in prior to World War II the Sazerac bar only admitted men? Ladies were not allowed to drink at the bar – only on Mardi Gras Day. Luckily that changed in 1949 when the bar relocated to the Roosevelt Hotel and on opening day for both genders the women outnumbered the men.
The combination of rye (or why not equal parts rye and cognac) peychauds and absinthe or herbsaint is amazing and addictive – and it grows on you. The balance of flavors is just perfect.
Let´s have one, let`s have two..
1/2 teaspoon herbsaint or absinthe
1 teaspoon of simple syrup or 1 cube of sugar or 1 tsp of granulated sugar
4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Optional: 1 dash angostura, not tradition but it opens up the flavors
2 ounces rye whiskey
Strip of lemon peel
Fill a 3-1/2 ounce Old Fashioned (rocks) glass with ice. Place the sugarcube in another glass and moisten it with water until it saturates and crush it or use simple syrup. Mix with whiskey and bitters, add ice and stir to chill.
Discard the ice from the first glass and add herbsaint or absinthe and coat the sides of the glass, then discard the excess (i like to leave a drop or two in the glass) Strain the rye into the glass and twist a lemon peel over the glass to express the oils, then rim the glass with it as well.
Discard the peel, or if you like use it as garnish – but don`t drop the entire peel back in the glass.