Sazerac Bar

Before I took this trip, my sister asked me if New Orleans had a signature drink and I told her it was the Hurricane. This might have been true several years ago but Hurricanes seem to have fallen out of favor since Katrina, for obvious reasons.

I didn’t know anything about the Sazerac.

The Sazerac is one of the oldest known American cocktails and it’s basically a whiskey cocktail (originally made with Sazerac brand whiskey) with a secret ingredient. Absinthe.

Absinthe has a magical haze around it, what with references like this one from Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Bram Stoker's Dracula

Plus the reports of it driving people mad and the almost world-wide ban on account of it being potentially poisonous, a ban that stood for almost 100 years before it was again made legal in the US a couple of years ago.

That’s a lot of drama over a liquor. Or rather, a spirit. Anything with that kind of history is going to acquire mythical status whether or not it rightly deserves it.

The Sazerac has absinthe in it, along with whiskey and bitters, and since it’s the official drink of New Orleans, I had to try it. I wanted to drink the best one in town and where better place than the Sazerac bar in the Roosevelt Hotel?

Roosevelt Hotel, New Orleans

The Sazerac bar is a gorgeous old-school gentlemen’s club type of place with lots of leather and wood, deep armchairs and a feeling of entitlement. Not cheap and not my normal thing but sort of delicious.

However, compared to the surroundings, I found the Sazerac underwhelming

Sazerac Bar

And I like whiskey.

I might have liked the Sazerac better on the rocks, or colder, or perhaps with a touch more absinthe. It tasted mostly like whiskey, which meant I could have just ordered whiskey and gotten something I liked better. Or perhaps a different whiskey cocktail like this Old Fashioned that Ryan ordered…

Sazerac Bar

But that said, I would go back and do it all over again because I love the story-telling symmetry of finishing my trip to New Orleans by drinking the official city cocktail in a beautiful old namesake bar.

Even if you don’t like whiskey (or alcohol), make a stop at the Sazerac bar. Rest your feet, order something cold and revel in the dim cool quiet of all that New Orleans history. It’s a great place to while away the hot afternoon and by the time you leave, you’ll be ready for dinner.

Tomorrow, a few last bits and pieces of my far-too-short trip to NOLA.