Antoine Amedee Peychaud was an apothecary who was forced to flee the islands of San Domingo after the slaves rebelled on his family’s coffee plantation. He arrived in New Orleans and opened a Drug and Pharmacy Store on Royal Street in 1834. There he used a medicinal tonic recipe that he brought with him from San Domingo to create an aromatic bitter, because these potions were commonly used in cooking and preparing drinks.
He combined brandy and the Peychaud’s bitters for his friends and customers that came into his house and pharmacy. Antoine advertised his bitters in the New Orleans newspapers and local bars started to use his bitters regularly. One of these bars was the Sazerac Coffee House. It was here in 1858, that a bartender called Leon Lamothe created the Sazerac, using Peychauds bitters, cognac and sugar.
The use of absinthe in the Sazerac came about when Thomas H. Handy took
over the Sazerac Coffee House during the American Civil War and the phylloxera infection hit French vineyards. The demand for brandy could not be satisfied and Thomas Handy started to use rye instead of brandy (with a splash of brandy) and added absinthe because it was fashionable. Peychaud’s bitters are still available and are an essential ingredient in the Sazerac cocktail although no longer owned by the Peychaud family who fell on hard times
during the Civil War.
The traditional ritual of making this drink involves chilling an old-fashioned
glass with crushed ice and using another old-fashioned glass for the preparation.
Add one cube of sugar to your glass and Peychaud’s bitters to taste, blend the
bitters together with the sugar with your bar spoon and add ice and rye, then stir
for a good 20 seconds. Discard the crushed ice from you pre-chilled glass and
wash with fine quality absinthe. Strain the chilled whiskey into the absinthe
coated glass and spray the oils of a lemon zest over the drink. Adding the zest in
the glass is optional and personal.
Most bartenders use sugar syrup instead of sugar cubes, the preparation in a mixing
glass is used a lot and Peychaud’s bitters are a must. Many brands of Absinthe
are on the market today but the best choice for your Sazeracs will be a good quality French