The New Deal (no, not that one) and the Sazerac

Generally, when I get interested in a topic, I get really fucking interested in a topic. My wife would say pathologically obsessive. Being a geek this obsessiveness usually involves a lot of books, magazines, websites and old-fashioned experimentation.

So the targets of my obsessive focus lately have been drinks.

Wow. I had no idea.

For years I’ve been quietly sipping scotch (my older brothers had started me on this) and yet had never really had bourbon. I’d had the occasional screw-driver and had made my wife a few Cosmopolitans (I think she even bought me the cocktail shaker for just that purpose). And yet I had never tried a martini or a gimlet (or gin for that matter). Needless to say, I have now rectified this situation.

So following months of digging, playing (and, uh, drinking) a few beverages stand out from the crowd for me. These have become my defaults when nothing else comes to mind.

The New Deal

The New Deal

The latest of these (and apt for the times) is the New Deal. One thing the New Deal shares in common with the other drinks in my frequently drunk club is simplicity. My recipe for it is based on David Embury’s in his classic book “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks” (available at Amazon).

  • 2 oz. Bourbon
  • 3/4 oz. Torani Amer
  • splash of symple syrup
  • ice
  • twist of orange peel (dropped in)

The original calls for Amer Picon but this is nearly impossible to acquire in the USA so Torani Amer is my substitute (you can read more on the Amers at Robert Hess’ The Spirit World). You can get Torani Ameri at WineGlobe if they don’t have it near you. If you do happen to have Amer Picon, you can get away with using a bit less (1/2 oz maybe) as it has a stronger taste then the Torani.

New Deal ingredients

New Deal ingredients

The New Deal is simple but full in flavor, the Amer brings a slight orange spice taste and aroma to the bourbon without being too citrus. You do have to be careful with the syrup though, there is a fine line between just enough to open up the sweetness of the other ingredients and way too much. I use just a small splash of it. Put it all in a rocks glass, stir, twist the orange peel over it and drink. Very comforting.

The Sazerac

The Sazerac

The other staple that’s likely to be in my hand on a given evening is the Sazerac. Now there’s a lot of lore out there about this drink and a lot of hand-waving about the one true and proper way of making it. Of course it was originally made none of these ways in New Orleans (the original was made with brandy not rye). Searching online will bring up several histories of and recipes for this classic. One of the best is here. So my version is my version not because I claim it to be better, more authentic or any such snobbishness, it’s just the way I like it.

  • 2 oz. Rye
  • splash of absinthe
  • splash of symple syrup
  • a few of dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
  • optionally a drop or two of Angostora (or better yet Fee Bros. Whiskey barrel aged bitters)
  • ice
  • twist of lemon peel (I like it dropped in, but others contend this is bad)

Now there is a method to this drink. Again lotsa hand-waving around this online. I keep it simple, mainly because I’m lazy. First pour the splash of absinthe in a decent heavy chilled glass. You want there to be enough to swirl around a bit to coat the sides. When swirled, pour out the excess (or drink it if it’s your glass). I tend to leave just a small amount still in the glass (not too much though). Next, pour in the splash of simple syrup and the bitters. Add a couple of cubes of ice, pour rye over it and then do the twist.

I am committing sacrilege with the ice by the way. Also apparently with the peel. So it goes. See Jeffrey Morgenthaler for more do’s and don’ts of Sazeracs. My favorite is this:

“Do not shake your Sazerac. Remember, shaking a clear drink is like shaking a baby: first there’s going to be a lot of foam, and then you’ll be staring death in the face.”

Alternately (and, yes, more correctly and authentically), stir the rye, bitters and syrup in a separate glass with ice until well-chilled, then strain into the chilled absinthe coated glass. This is a bit more work, more authentic and all, but I tend to go quick and easy on this one and do it all in one glass. Advantage to the two glass method is that the ice cubes don’t go into the final glass so no excessive dilution if it takes you awhile to drink it.

It’s important to use rye whiskey for this drink. It doesn’t work well with bourbon or other whiskeys. I prefer the Sazerac 6 year old rye from the Sazerac Company though I intend to try others (have some Rittenhouse on order). Unfortunately, the Sazerac (and any other rye but Jim Beam) can be hard to find around my parts.

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