It's mostly just the tourists who stagger down Bourbon Street clutching giant plastic sippy cups of electric-pink Hurricane punch. Old-line New Orleanians, who prefer their spirits dark and moody, turn instead to a good stiff Sazerac when they want to get a Creole party - or, for that matter, just a routine lunch at Galatoire's - into a copacetic gear.
The Sazerac is as classic as the Crescent City's historic dining scene, with roots back to an 1830s cocktail made from cognac (from a brand called Sazerac) that switched to a spicier base of rye in the 1870s. It is the anise kiss of Herbsaint, though, the New Orleans version of absinthe, that distinguishes the classic drink from a rye Manhattan. That, and the fruity twinge of Peychaud bitters and the oils of a lemon twist swabbed around the rim. Properly mixed and chilled, with just enough Herbsaint to glaze the inside of an old fashioned tumbler, it tastes like bittersweet licorice whiskey.
Kip Waide, the owner and master bartender at Southwark in Queen Village, is one of the few Philly mixologists who truly understand the Sazerac's allure: "It's a good sipper. But it isn't a dainty cocktail. It's a whiskey drinker's beverage. This is a spirit."
Best of all, Waide's Sazeracs can be made with a pick from Southwark's stellar collection of 21 different ryes. Start with the $9 standard Old Overholt, or go for a $23 Sazerac deluxe made from a cask-strength 18-year-old, from the Sazerac Company itself.
Southwark is located at 701 S. 4th St., 215-238-1888.
- Craig LaBan