Food & Drink

America's First Cocktail: Was It The Sazerac? (INFOGRAPHIC)

We know one thing for certain: it's one of our best.
Traditional Sazerac cocktail, taken inside a bar.
Traditional Sazerac cocktail, taken inside a bar.

There are about as many stories about who invented the Sazerac as there are ways to make one. There has also been plenty of debate about whether or not the Sazerac was America's first ever cocktail. This classic New Orleans cocktail is one of our favorites -- we even urged you to make Sazeracs for your Fat Tuesday parties in February.

As we started to dream up our Independence Day cocktail menu, celebrating the best, brightest and earliest American cocktails, we knew two things: the Sazerac had to be on the list, and we needed to get the cold, hard facts regarding its history. For that, we reached out to our booze spirit guides at Here's what they had to tell us:

  1. The Sazerac gained popularity in the mid-1800s at the Sazerac Coffee House in New Orleans, which was named for the Sazerac de Forge et Fils brand of cognac.
  2. The drink was originally made with cognac, but the phylloxera epidemic of the late 19th century that destroyed European vineyards forced a switch to rye whiskey.
  3. Peychaud's Bitters, which are a must for the Sazerac, were also created in New Orleans, in the 1830s, by a pharmacist named Antoine Amedie Peychaud (in fact, the cocktail was actually first mixed by Peychaud, before it even had a name).
  4. Despite what some claim, the Sazerac is not the original cocktail. The word 'cocktail' was first defined in print in 1806 as a mix of spirit, water, sugar and bitters -- basically an Old Fashioned.


Ready to give the Sazerac a try? Check out's recipe:

1 Sugar cube (Demerara or white)
3 Dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
2 oz Russell’s Reserve Rye Whiskey
Slice of lemon peel

Rinse a chilled rocks glass with absinthe, discarding any excess, and set aside. In a mixing glass, muddle the sugar cube and both bitters. Add the rye, fill with ice and stir. Strain into the prepared glass. Twist a slice of lemon peel over the surface to extract the oils and then discard.

In case you're still feeling a bit shaky about the process, watch a pro do it!

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This story appears in the special July 4 issue of our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, in the iTunes App store, available Friday, June 28.

Whiskey Cocktails