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.

20080203_inq_mgdrink03z-a

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