Sizing up the Sazerac

The mysteries of NOLA’s signature cocktail

Bartender Justin Taylor pours a Sazerac at The Cascade Room. Dan Toulgoet photo

What is it with absinthe? Every time the herbal spirit gets involved, confusion and controversy seem to follow.

Take the Sazerac, one of the world’s oldest and greatest cocktails and since 2008 the official state cocktail of Louisiana. For decades experts as revered as Dale de Groff, King Cocktail himself, traced the origins of the first cocktail to this anise-scented variation on the Old Fashioned. Sadly, it can’t be true, since the word “cocktail” first appeared in print in 1806 and the apothecary who allegedly invented the Sazerac was only three years old at the time.

Still. It’s a good tale.

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Sazerac

Sazerac. Dan Toulgoet photo

A great classic that belongs in every barkeep’s repertoire.

• 1 tsp (approximately) absinthe or pastis
• 1 cube sugar or 1 tsp simple syrup
• 3 or 4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
• 2 oz Cognac, rye whisky, or a mix of both
• Lemon peel for garnish

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Distant distilleries

The challenges and benefits of making spirits in rural regions

Because shipping to Hornby is so expensive, Island Spirits distiller Pete Kimmerly transported his shiny new still himself. Tim Pawsey photo

What’s the flip side of the urban winery? That’ll be the rural distillery. Artisan distilling in British Columbia is on a roll, with some 60 distilleries in full operation, and at least a dozen more to open within the year (according to BC Distilled). While the Lower Mainland is home to many distilleries, there’s no shortage of them popping up in far-flung spots, from Shirley and Ucluelet to Wynndel and Wycliffe.

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Bitter is better

Cocktail bitters are a bartender’s salt and pepper. Here’s our guide to B.C.’s best

Victoria Distillers produces the Twisted & Bitter lineup, which ranges from fruity (orange, grapefruit, schizandra) to spicy (pepper, ginger). Victoria Distillers photo

Aficionados of Old Fashioneds are familiar with oversize-label bottles of Angostura, the classic aromatic bitters from Trinidad and Tobago that have made a million cocktails sing. Signature mixes of botanicals, often originally used as medicine, have earned famous bitters brands like Sazerac, Peychaud’s and Amargo Chunchon (for Pisco Sours) a place in the classic-cocktail canon.

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Post Opium Daiquiri

Post Opium Daiquiri. Andrew Kong photo

The base:
• 1.5 oz Havana Club 3-year-old rum
• 1 oz Ms. Better’s passionfruit purée
• 0.5 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
• 0.5 oz Ms. Better’s demerara syrup
• 1 dash Ms. Better’s Lime Leaf Bitters

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Canadian Coffee

Canadian Coffee. Bittered Sling photo

• 1.5 oz Lot 40 Rye Whisky
• 0.75 oz maple syrup
• 4 oz hot brewed coffee
• 2 dashes Moondog Latin bitters
• Heavy cream, lightly whipped
• Grated cinnamon

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Curandero

Curandero. Apothecary Bitters Company photo

• 2 oz blanco tequila
• 1 tsp agave nectar
• 1 tsp Port
• 2 dashes Apothecary ‘Mason Dixon’ Southern Pecan bitters
• Orange twist, for garnish

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Apple Flip

At Olo, the Apple Flip is served with a side of Julien Fremont Calvados to round out the apple experience. Byron Smith photo.

At Olo, the Apple Flip is served with a side of Julien Fremont Calvados to round out the apple experience. 

INGREDIENTS:
• 2oz House Spiced & Solera Aged Honey Shine ‘Rum’ by Devine Vineyards
• 0.5oz Sea Star ‘Prose’ Riesling & Apple Dessert Wine
• 0.5oz Apple & Shiso Syrup
• One whole egg
• Okanagan Spirits Taboo Absinthe Spritz

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Spirit of wine country

The South Okanagan is a fruitful playground for distillers to innovate and collaborate

“Smile, there’s gin,” says the chalked sign. Perched on the Naramata Bench, with a sleek tasting room and sunny patio overlooking Okanagan Lake, Legend Distilling could be mistaken for a hip winery. But a taste of its Doctors Orders gin puts me firmly in the spirit world as I begin my quest to discover what unites the South Okanagan Distillery Trail, a handful of stops mapped on a passport-style stamp card.

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