I was called out on Twitter after posting a rehash of Playboy's Never Sleep:Dallas -- a guide to drinking away a Saturday in the Big D. I picked on the magazine for ordering a Manhattan, and Twitter user philipberne scoffed:
Also, @scottreitz, a Sazerac, with its Absinthe spritz, is a hipster cocktail of the lowest order. You clearly haven't had a great Manhattan
If only I were so hip. I've had many Manhattans, some of which I'm quite certain were exemplary renditions of the cocktail. I'm just not fond of Bourbon and drinks that play up the inherent sweetness of the spirit. Which is exactly why I love a Sazerac, which makes use of peppery rye and, when made properly, only a whisper of sweet absinthe. The Sazerac is a classic, and some would say it's America's original cocktail. New Orleans gave birth to the concoction, as it did the Peychaud's bitters the drink features prominently. A Sazerac makes for muscular, almost medicinal drinking.
The only problem is finding a good one.
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While style and subjectivity allow for some variation, I've had some really bastardized Sazeracs in Dallas. At the Windmill Lounge I had one shaken and frothy, and at Free Man in Deep Ellum I had one served on the rocks with a lemon wedge (the horror!). But the biggest problem I see in Dallas Sazeracs is the Absinthe abuse that apparently turned off my Twitter friend.
A Sazerac should employ a Sazerac rinse, whereby the bartender pours a small amount of the spirit into the serving glass, gives it a twirl and then discards the spirit. Anise flavors should present in your nose, but if you're tasting licorice there is way too much Absinthe in your drink. Free Man in Deep Ellum was the worst offender -- the drink was so laden with the spirit it was sweet.
So instead of bitching, maybe I should tell you were to get a good drink (it is Friday after all). My favorite so far (I've tried Sazeracs at about eight different bars in Dallas) is at the Black Swan Saloon. Last night I watched as Gabe Sanchez shook my tumbler free of excess Absinthe and then proceeded to make me a beautiful cocktail.
Rocco Milano made me a great Sazerac at the Mansion. He's now mixing drinks at Private Social, and though I hear he's playing with powders and other crazy innovations, I'm sure he hasn't forgotten the classics. And Omar Yeefoon at the People's Last Stand makes a balanced Sazerac and serves a decent sandwich too (though I'm not sure why anyone would order these two things together).