I love the striking contrasts in a chocolate sazerac cocktail. You taste pepper and spice from the rye, earthy chocolate notes, and the cold medicinal taste of absinthe, all in each sip. It’s a great reminder that a cocktail made of contrasts can be more compelling than one of similar flavors.
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What is a Sazerac?
Let’s back up for a minute. A sazerac is a rye whiskey cocktail made with simple syrup, Peychaud’s bitters and served in a glass that is rinsed with absinthe. It originated in New Orleans, but it’s a favorite world-wide now.
It’s a drink that’s stirred, since it has no citrus or cream in it, and it’s a close cousin to the old fashioned. Both have similar ratios of whiskey, sugar, and bitters. It’s said it was originally developed to help Antoine Peychaud sell his medicinal bitters in New Orleans.
For the full history and process of the sazerac, head over to my article How to Make the Best Sazerac for more details.
Flavors in the Chocolate Sazerac
In a sazerac, the Peychaud’s bitters, traditional for the drink, bring a bit of star anise to the drink. And that ties it to the absinthe or Herbsaint traditional as a glass rinse. Absinthe or Herbsaint are the liqueurs that give the cocktail it’s licorice taste.
Here, we’re adding in deep earthy notes of chocolate, both in the form of a chocolate liqueur and also the Bitter Truth bitters I’m using. Using both chocolate bitters and liqueur keeps the whiskey cocktail from becoming too sweet.
I generally use more absinthe than just a rinse in the glass. I love the cooling touch of absinthe in the mouth, so adding a bit more gets me a great contrast I love. But not everyone loves the taste of licorice as much as I do. So dial up the licorice taste to your preference.
As always, make it your cocktail.
What is Absinthe?
Absinthe is the drink that was banned because it was supposedly causing artists and writers to go insane. In fact, the active ingredient of absinthe, the thujone from the wormwood, was in such small quantities that we now know it wasn’t causing insanity and hallucinogen in absinthe drinkers.
It’s often light green in color, so sometimes you’ll hear it called The Green Fairy. Wormwood, the ingredient that gives it that lovely taste and pale green hue, was used medicinally by both the Egyptians and the Greeks. So there’s a long history of its medicinal use, whether or not it was in spirits infused with wormwood.
It was banned in many European countries and American between 1905 and 1915 because of it’s growing reputation as a dangerous hallucinogen. Today we know it wasn’t really the cause. It was only legalized again in some countries in the 1990s, but it’s presence has been growing ever since.
How to Rinse a Glass
There are two easy ways to rinse a glass with absinthe. In the first, take a chilled glass, add a bar spoon or two of absinthe and roll the glass around in your hand to coat as much of the interior of the glass as you can. Generally people discard the extra, unless you’re like me and you love licorice.
I often just leave it in the bottom of the glass.
The other way is faster. Get a small atomizer – it looks like a small travel hair-spray bottle and fill it with absinthe. Use the pump on top of the atomizer to spray your glass with absinthe before pouring in the cocktail.
You can even add a spritz or two on the top once the cocktail is in place. But that’s up to you and how much you love licorice flavors.
How to Make a Chocolate Sazerac
To make the cocktail, add the rye whiskey, simple syrup, creme de cacao and your bitters to the mixing glass. Fill with ice and stir for 20-30 seconds. Strain into your chilled, rinsed rocks glass and garnish with an orange zest.
It’s as simple as an old fashioned. Tips and tricks specific to the sazerac cocktail can be found here: https://www.cocktailcontessa.com/classic-sazerac/ as well as some other flavor ideas you might try.
Other Cocktails You Might Enjoy
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Recommended Bar Tools
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You probably already have these, but you may need them, too:
- 2 oz rye whiskey
- ¼ oz simple syrup
- ¼ oz crème de cacao
- 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- 2 dashes chocolate bitters
- Absinthe rinse or mist from atomizer (I used Copper and Kings Absinthe)
- Orange peel
- Combine whiskey, simple, liqueur and bitters in a mixing glass and add ice. Stir until well-chilled. Strain into a rocks glass rinsed with absinthe. Express an orange peel over the cocktail and discard the peel.