Just before the holidays I read a book about New Orleans food called Gumbo Tales. Written by Sara Roahen, former food writer for The Gambit, the book tells the story of Sara’s experiences with food (and drink) in New Orleans before and after Katrina.
It’s a great book and I highly recommend it to any of you who like reading about food (or who are planning to visit New Orleans in the near future). It made me long for a trip there myself.
There are a lot of chapters in the book that left an impression, but the one that has made the biggest change in my eating (or more accurately, drinking) habits is the one called simply “Sazeracs.”
Before reading this book I had never heard of a Sazerac, a drink that, according to Wikipedia (source of all accurate information), is one of the oldest known cocktails, originating in pre-Civil War New Orleans.
Always on the lookout for a new drink to test the skills of Portland’s many talented bartenders, and made truly thirsty by Roahen’s descriptions of the beverage, I started ordering them around town; and liking them. So far I have had great versions at Toro Bravo, Clarklewis and Beaker and Flask.
Last night I decided to make my own. I started (in the liquor store parking lot!) by reviewing a few recipes on my iPhone. List in hand (I needed Rye or another “American Whiskey;” Absinthe, Pernod or Herbsaint; and Angostura Bitters — I had a small bottle of Peychaud’s Bitters and a lemon at home already), I made my way into the store.
The biggest dilemma was what whiskey to buy. Despite some recipes that said NEVER to use Bourbon in a Sazerac, the Rye selection was very limited so I decided Bourbon would have to do. I bought a bottle of Black Maple Hill Premium Small Batch Bourbon.
There was no Absinthe or Herbsaint so I ended up with Pernod, a lovely, green, anise-flavored liqueur.
The Pernod (1 scant teaspoon) is used to “rinse” a chilled glass. The other ingredients: 2 oz Rye or Bourbon, 1 tsp simple syrup, 4 dashes Peychauds bitters and 1 scant dash Angostura bitters, are mixed gently in an ice-filled cocktail shaker before being poured into the Pernod-rinsed glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel.
Sit back, take a sip and imagine you are in New Orleans.