Cocktail Chatter: A Yankee Sazerac

By Ed Sikov

"This is like 'Jezebel,'" I snarled as I leafed through the cocktail books. Some were mine, but most came with the house, which was built by the guy who owned Showers - a bar in Chelsea that features guys in Speedos drenching, self-lovingly soaping and rinsing themselves onstage. The old gang showers at the Columbia gym were hotter.

Anyway, I was researching the Sazerac, a cocktail from the Big Easy. Easy? That's a laugh! The recipes were so stuffy that they reminded me of Bette Davis's 'Jezebel,' in which Bette ruins her life by wearing the wrong gown to a cotillion. As a direct result, she loses her fiance (Henry Fonda) to a dreadfully cheerful Yankee but gets carted triumphantly away with Fonda to Leper Island in the happy ending.

The Sazerac recipes were as impossibly stiff as Bette's ruinous cotillion. "The South should have seceded," I muttered. "These recipes are inane."

"Then don't make them," Dan sighed. "I'm sorry I brought it up. I had one at that conference in Satan's humid maw (New Orleans), and I thought you'd like it. I should have my head examined."

"For what? Lice?"

Poor Dan. "Listen to this," I said. "'Pack a 3.5-ounce glass with ice. ('Not a 4-ounce glass, not a 3-ounce glass, but a precious little 3.5-ounce glass.') In another 3.5-ounce glass, moisten a sugar cube with water, then crush it. ('Oh sweet Mary!') Blend with rye and bitters. Add cubes of ice and stir. Dump out the ice and pour in the absinthe. Coat the inside of the glass and pour out the excess. ('No, asshole - drink it!') Strain the rye into the absinthe-coated glass. Twist a lemon peel over the glass so that the lemon oil cascades into the drink. ('Cascades! That's Bette's psycho asylum in 'Now, Voyager'!') Then rub the peel over the rim of the glass.'"

Then came the most idiotic sentence ever written in a cocktail recipe: "As Wilfred Frisby St. Bernard says, 'Do not commit the sacrilege of dropping the peel into the drink.'"

"Ohhhh," I intoned. "It's a sacrilege. Remind me to plop a whole lemon in."'

Dan was getting sick of it. "I wish I - no, you - had never been born. Why don't you drink Absolut and I'll have Pernod and we'll give the absinthe away to a needy child."

"No!" I shouted a bit too loud. (I'd been sneaking hits of absinthe all afternoon.) "I'll make the damn Sazeracs. Only I'm going to do it my way. Let New friggin' Orleans declare war on me."

By the third round of Sazeracs, which are quite powerful, we'd done 180s: I was extolling the virtues of antebellum gentility, while Dan was strategizing the next Civil War.

The Sazerac: a Dan and Ed Co-Production

1/4-cup of rye

1-tsp "Really Simple Syrup" - put equal parts sugar and water into a jar, tighten the lid and shake until the sugar is dissolved

4 dashes of bitters (Snotty N'Awlanders demand Peychaud's, but use Angostura on principle)

Absinthe or Pernod - 1/2-tsp in the original, but pour as much as you want

Dump all ingredients sloppily into any size glass except a 3.5 ouncer. Disregard the lemon. Stir with your finger, lick the finger in front of your guests, and serve.

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