The Sazerac is a class-act cocktail with a storied history.
Often referred to as America’s first cocktail, the Sazerac was invented in New Orleans in the 1830s by Creole apothecary Antoine Peychaud and—according to legend— first served in an eggcup. Named after Peychaud’s preferred type of brandy (Sazerac-de-Forge et fils), it’s a cocktail that has stood the test of time—and New Orleans is one of the best places to enjoy this iconic American cocktail. Here are the bars which should be on the radar of Sazerac fans everywhere. Cheers!
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The Elysian Bar
You’ll find the Elysian Bar inside Hotel Peter and Paul—a former rectory in the Marigny neighborhood. The décor is eclectic, with vaulted ceilings floating above tiki-style bar stools and bamboo wall detailing. But weirdly, it works.
“For our Sazerac, we use Stellum Rye whisky and Grand Cru Cognac,” says Ben Hatch, beverage director at Elysian Bar. “We like the combination of the spice and power of American rye whisky and the balanced fruit and mouthfeel of Pierre Ferrand Cognac. Much like New Orleans, it’s a beautiful and decadent balance of the old and new.”
Sazerac Bar, The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel
There are plenty of nods to old New Orleans at this brilliant bar in The Roosevelt, with its plush banquettes, chandeliers, and murals by 1930s artist Paul Ninas. It’s got a rich history, too— Huey P. Long would regularly stop by and order a Ramos gin fizz, and in September 1949, it was the setting for a demonstration by local women who were protesting the law stating they were only allowed in the bar on Mardis Gras. “The vibe of the bar is what makes it,” says Sazerac Bar mixologist Erick Morton. I always think it’s silly when people come here and order a Sazerac but don’t hang around. They’ve missed a key part of the experience.”
Jewel of the South
The owners of Jewel of the South, a cozy French Quarter bar, wanted to pay homage to a venue with the same name, which could once be found in the New Orleans neighborhood of St Mary. Sadly, the neighborhood (and bar) no longer exists, but this might be the next best thing. The cocktail and food menu is a tribute to the original Jewel of the South’s owner, Joseph Santini, once known as the best bartender in New Orleans. Today, the Jewel of the South’s Sazerac is one of the city’s most drinkable versions, thanks largely to the use of Madeira and Rancio Sec to balance the cocktail.
The Davenport Lounge, the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans
Davenport Lounge is a beautiful jazz bar known for its live music (named after jazz trumpeter Jeremy Davenport, the bar’s resident musician) and modern twists on classic cocktails. The Davenport Lounge is famous for its Triple Crown Sazerac, made with a type of Pinhook bourbon created especially for the bar. The result? One of the smoothest versions you’ll find in New Orleans.
Seaworthy, the Ace Hotel
Seaworthy is an oyster and cocktail bar tucked into a classic Creole cottage built in 1832. This is another place where mixologists have paid tribute to the original version of Sazerac by using brandy instead of rye whisky. In this case, the liquor of choice is Marc de Bourgogne, a spirit made by distilling the pomace of Pinot Noir grapes from Burgundy. “We named our Sazerac the 19th-Century as a reference to the fact that before the modern Sazerac, French brandies like Marc de Bourgogne were used,” explains beverage director Ryan Anderson.
Cane & Table
Cane & Table is known for its rum-based cocktails, but don’t let that put you off—their Sazerac is one of the best in town, largely because of their meticulous approach to ingredients. “Our Sazerac stands out because of our precise amounts of Peychaud’s Bitters and the sugar that we use,” says Cane & Table’s Sam Kiley. “The bitters should enhance and not cover up the rye whisky, and using smaller quantities means less sugar is needed to balance the cocktail. We use Demerara sugar, which is less sweet, and allows for a depth of flavor, which is missing when using processed white sugar instead.”
SoBou’s Taylor Bird Sazerac honors its creators: importer Sewell Taylor, bar owner Aaron Bird, and apothecary Antoine Peychaud. Instead of rye whiskey, Cognac—the spirit used for the original version—is used. “Bartenders only started using rye when Cognac became impossible to import during Europe’s phylloxera epidemic, which destroyed all the grapevines,” says SoBou mixologist Abigal Gullo. SoBou is another bar with a rich history. “The building is a former icehouse, dating back to the 1800s,” says Abigail Gullo. “It probably stored ice. which chilled the ingredients used in those early Sazeracs, and I like to think we have good cocktail juju here because of that!”
This slick French Quarter cocktail bar only opened in 2021, but its Sazerac is already regarded as the best in town. “We’re the only bar in the city to source locally made, fresh Peychaud’s bitters, which we get from the Sazerac House on Canal Street,” says Nick Jarrett, head bartender at Peychaud’s. “We wanted to bring the cocktail back to its 19th-century roots when bars would source Antoine Peychaud’s bitters from his apothecary in town. Fresh bitters are vastly brighter, floral, and more complex.”
The Jazz Playhouse
You’ll find this French Quarter jazz bar inside the Royal Sonesta Hotel, a New Orleans institution known for its beautiful courtyard and elegant wrought-iron balconies. The Jazz Playhouse is famous for its Circa Sazerac, which uses St. Remy VSOP Brandy and is based on a recipe dating back to the 1800s. There’s plenty of delicious food to soak up the alcohol, too. We recommend the Louisiana crabcakes, served with grilled corn salsa.
Arnaud’s French 75 Bar
Arnaud’s French 75 Bar dates back to the 1800s when it was the gentlemen’s bar of the city’s famous Arnaud’s Restaurant. It’s one of the city’s more refined watering holes, with tuxedo-wearing staff, vast expanses of polished mahogany, and beautiful tiled flooring. “Our Sazerac is made in a very unconventional way,” says head bartender Christoph Dornemann. “First and foremost, we chill our whiskey. We use a classic rye (Old Overholt) and keep it in the cooler. When finishing the cocktail, we add three dashes of cold water to keep dilution to a minimum and to give our Sazerac its robust, pronounced flavors.”