Sunday, October 14, 2012

These days

Now that I know how to make a Sazerac, the only question I have is:  how do I not make a Sazerac every single day?  Well, I guess greater minds than mine have struggled with this question, and in the process, produced many of the American literary classics of the twentieth century.  Perhaps fortunately, I don't have the funds right now to buy the quantities of rye whiskey that a Sazerac-a-day habit might entail.

Three years ago, when I was a wealthy third-year graduate student, I bought Ad Hoc At Home.  That was the book that started to get me thinking about cooking as a set of techniques and processes--blanch, fry, roast, think, season, taste--that are applied to food one-by-one to make a dish.  Since then, I think I've established quite a fluency in the kitchen.  I can read most recipes and see exactly how they're going to turn out in my head, and I can turn just about anything in the supermarket into the centerpiece for a dinner party or a weeknight meal that's ready in under an hour.  I'm still learning every time I cook, but I've cooked a lot now, and for the first time, I'm starting to feel like I have a handle on how foods work.

But I haven't explored cocktails at all.  I think that the sazerac will be a good starting point.  It's elemental: just the spirit with a sweetener, an accent and a garnish.  How do you chill a cocktail?  How do you mix it?  How do you add sugar and dilute the spirit while keeping its character intact?  How much bitters is too much bitters?  What does the lemon zest do?  Before moving on to a more complicated cocktail (maybe a Sidecar), I'm going to answer these questions by making a lot of Sazeracs and thinking carefully about each one.  I'm just not going to make too many.


for one

2 oz rye whiskey
1 teaspoon sugar
Peychaud's bitters
pastis, or absinthe
a lemon

Put a small glass or mason jar in the freezer for 30 minutes.  This is an important step, because it keeps you from drinking too many sazeracs.  If you forget that you have a mason jar in the freezer 30 minutes later, then I guess you didn't really want to have a sazerac, did you?

To some kind of a cocktail-shaking vessel, add a teaspoon of sugar and 3-4 dashes of Peychaud's bitters.  Add 5-6 ice cubes and pour the rye over the ice cubes.  A small splash of water here can help make the drink a little smoother.  Shake until the sugar is completely dissolved and the drink is cold, about 20-30 seconds.  Add a few drops of absinthe or pastis to the chilled glass, turn to coat the glass, and then pour it out (if you want).  Pour the cocktail into the chilled glass and garnish with a strip of lemon shaved from a vegetable peeler.

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