The Sazerac already has that slight touch of licorice in it from the absinthe rinse, but what if we added to that by making a fennel Sazerac? Fennel’s sweet licorice flavoring adds more depth to the Sazerac, and we’ll twist up the flavor factor with some peppercorn tincture. This adds a very subtle layering of spice and vegetal flavors from the paring of fennel syrup and peppercorn tincture.
It’s recognizably a Sazerac but with a touch of earthy, vegetal notes and hint of heat from the peppercorn. Matched with an appropriately spicy rye whiskey it’s a great take on a classic Sazerac.
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What’s in a Classic Sazerac Cocktail?
Your basic Sazerac cocktail consists of rye whiskey, simple syrup, Peychaud’s bitters and a rinse of absinthe. Spirit-forward and highly aromatic, the Sazerac travels the country and the world as a whiskey classic cocktail. For more on the classic Sazerac, go here.
Fennel Simple Syrup
As the key to increasing the licorice flavors of this Sazerac riff, the fennel simple syrup adds more than sweetness. Fennel itself has slight licorice/anise seed taste and smell. In addition, it adds a very slight fresh-cut vegetable note. To me it’s a reminder of the smell of cleaning and cutting vegetables for roasting.
Combining that licorice flavor with the very slight reminder of cut vegetables with sugar in a simple syrup ties into the vegetal notes of the peppercorn tincture. The licorice flavors meld with the baking spices in the rye as well.
To make the syrup, add 1 thinly sliced fennel bulb to a saucepan with a cup of water and a cup of sugar. Simmer for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat and let cool completely, at least an hour. Strain into a clean glass jar and store in the fridge.
How to Make a Peppercorn Tincture
Playing with tinctures remains an easy and fun way to increase aromatic and flavor layers in your cocktails. Peppercorns impart both spicy/heat flavors and vegetal aromatics. Instead of just tasting the heat of the ground pepper, as they infuse in the tincture, they leave the faint smell and taste of peppers fresh from the garden.
To create a peppercorn tincture, put 2 tablespoons of peppercorns into 2-3 ounces of high proof grain alcohol or vodka. Let the tincture sit for 24 to 72 hours, or until you fall in love with the flavor and aroma. Strain and store in a clean glass jar in a cool dark place.
Putting Together the Fennel and Peppercorn Sazerac
The Sazerac is an easy, spirit-forward, mixed cocktail. No need to get out that shaker. Make sure the rocks glass you’ll use has spent time in the freezer and is very cold. Because we serve this one without ice, you’ll need to make sure that glass is frosty when you pour your cocktail.
To build it, put the spirits, tincture, simple and bitters in the mixing glass, stir and strain into your chilled glass that you’ve rinsed or spritzed with absinthe. Garnish with a star anise and lemon oil and enjoy the play of fennel peppercorn and rye together in this non-traditional Sazerac.
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Fennel and Peppercorn Sazerac
- 2 oz rye whiskey
- ½ oz fennel simple syrup
- 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- 1 barspoon peppercorn tincture
- Absinthe mist for glass
- Lemon peel: use and discard
- Chill glass and add 1 to 2 spritzes of absinthe to the glass. Combine rye, fennel simple syrup, bitters and tincture in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir until well-chilled, about 30 seconds. Strain into your chilled, rinsed, or misted glass and express the lemon peel over the drink. Discard the lemon peel.
- 1 medium bulb fennel, chopped
- 1 cup sugar
- ¾ cup water
- 1 star anise
- 2 tablespoons peppercorns
- 2 oz high proof grain alcohol or vodka