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Whiskey Cocktail Hour: Carthusian Sazerac

The Sazerac is a very classic cocktail. It’s a stiff drink, and one you don’t mess with unless you’re ready to roll deep with the whiskey cocktails.

As with many pre-Prohibition era whiskey cocktails that we know and love today, the Sazerac was originally made with Cognac as the base spirit. However, after the phylloxera blight hit the grape growers of Europe with a vengeance in the late 1800’s, there wasn’t much Cognac to go around, so bartenders switched to using whiskey, and we’ve never really gone back.

It is most common to use rye whiskey when making a Sazerac. Some people like to use bourbon, which is not traditional, and I personally think that the drink needs the spice of the rye, but it’s your drink and you can do whatever you like. Just know that the standard is to use rye.


You would also typically use absinthe to “season” your chilled glass before pouring the cocktail into it. Absinthe has a lot of very strong, herbal flavors to it, so you just want a hint, you don’t want to actually mix it into the drink. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen bartenders mix the absinthe into the drink. Not only is it not correct, but it just tastes plain gross. Don’t do it!

Peychaud’s bitters are the classic choice for the Sazerac. Some people will add both Peychaud’s and Angostura. I like that combo, personally, since Peychaud’s tend to be a bit lighter with a more floral aroma, and Angostura adds more depth to the drink.


For this Sazerac variation, I wanted to switch things up a bit and use another very herbal liqueur to season the glass. I also added different bitters to compliment the liqueur choice. Instead of the typical absinthe or Herbsaint, I chose to use Green Chartreuse. Green Chartreuse is absinthe’s sweeter cousin: They both posses very herbal qualities and aromas, but Absinthe has the very distinct and strong flavor of anise, while Green Chartreuse is sweeter and has a woodsy menthol quality to it. Chartreuse originated with the Carthusian monks in France and the recipe is a closely guarded secret to this day. It pairs beautifully with chocolate, so I decided to use chocolate bitters in this drink to mellow some of the more pointed flavors of the Chartreuse.

As with all cocktails, you should experiment by switching out ingredients and trying new flavor combinations. It’s a fun way to give a classic drink your own special twist.


Carthusian Sazerac

2 oz Rye Whiskey

2 dashes Bob’s Abbotts Bitters

2 dashes Portland Bitters Project Cacao Bitters

1 dash Angostura Bitters

1 barspoon Brown Sugar

Green Chartreuse

Lemon Peel

Instructions: Add ice and water to an old fashioned glass and set aside to chill. Once chilled, dump the ice and water.  Rinse the glass with Chartreuse and discard remaining liquid.

In a mixing glass, stir sugar and bitters together until sugar is a bit diluted. Add whiskey and ice and stir for about 40 seconds. Strain into chilled old fashioned glass. (I like mine over a large cube of ice, but it’s up to you). Twist lemon peel over the drink to express the oils and rub, skin side up, over the rim of the glass. You can discard it or add it to the drink, it’s up to your preference.


For more cocktail inspiration check out fern + shaker here.

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