Garden & Gun is a fine journal of Southern culture. This month’s issue features 50 great Southern bars (though, ahem, the Caribbean is included as part of the South!?), as well as some fine Southern spirits. What caught my attention though was a small graphic showing how Garden & Gun‘s Facebook fans voted in a poll to determine the “quintessential Southern cocktail.” The choices were the Bloody Mary (Southern? I don’t think so), the Mint Julep (decidedly Southern, but frankly a bit of a specialty drink in my opinion), the Old-Fashioned (quintessential, yes; Southern, not so much), the Sazerac (ahhh, yes), and the Bourbon & Ginger (quite Southern, but a bit too easy).
As if my comments didn’t hint at it, my choice would be the Sazerac – that classic cocktail of the classic cocktail city of New Orleans, a drink of great character, especially when made with a good rye whiskey. As for those Facebook voters, they chose the Mint Julep first, then the Bourbon & Ginger, then the Old-Fashioned, then the Bloody Mary (bloody hell!), THEN the Sazerac. Dead last. A sorry Southern state of affairs. I can forgive the Mint Julep win, though the commercialization of it as the drink of the Kentucky Darby (brought to you by Yum! Brands, and Budweiser, and Ram trucks, and Early Times, and Woodford Reserve!) gets under my skin a bit. But to put the Sazerac below the Bloody Mary! Blimey. Maybe those Garden & Gun Facebookers just don’t know what they’re missing. They need to get down to New Orleans, or to their town’s best cocktail bar, and reconnect with the Sazerac, THE quintessential Southern cocktail.
1 Sugar Cube
2 1/2 oz Rye Whiskey (I suggest Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond)
2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
1 dash Angostura Bitters
Absinthe (or Herbsaint)
Lemon Peel for garnish
In an Old-Fashioned glass, muddle the sugar cube with a touch of water to soften it up. Add some ice cubes, then the rye, then the bitters. Meanwhile, add a splash of absinthe to a second, chilled Old-Fashioned glass and swirl around to coat the inside of the glass, then pour out the rest. Strain the rye and bitters into the absinthe-washed glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel. Enjoy.