What A New York-Style Sazerac Means In Australia

If you're a classic cocktail enthusiast, you've likely come across drinks that have multiple variations in their recipes depending on where you order them. Many staples of cocktail bar menus can be greatly altered by tweaking a ratio or swapping one ingredient for another. Perhaps the most famous example of this is the martini, which is traditionally made with gin, but it is commonly made with vodka, thanks to the influence of James Bond.

But while everybody knows you can order a martini with one of two base liquors, the variations of other drinks may be less common knowledge. Case in point, the Sazerac. As recipe developer Christina Musgraves notes, the drink today is most commonly made with rye whiskey. However, when it was first developed in 19th century New Orleans, it was made with Cognac.

Australian Bartender explains the French-inspired drink became uniquely American after a blight destroyed much of France's grapes in the late 1800s, making brandy and Cognac all but impossible to get in the U.S., and whiskey was substituted as the base. The rest of the drink is composed of Peychaud's bitters, sugar, and absinthe – which itself needed to be substituted for liquors like Herbsaint, (per Bitters and Bottles), during the 20th century when it was banned in the U.S. — and topped with a citrus twist. Now, however, with Cognac and absinthe both readily available, the Sazerac has begun to see its own martini-like variations pop up.

Australian style

While the Sazerac is still made almost exclusively with rye whiskey in its home city of New Orleans, a common variation has cropped up named for another American city unrelated to its development: New York. According to Punch, if you order a Sazerac in Australia, you'll be faced with a follow-up question: "New York or New Orleans style?" As explained by Punch, "New Orleans style," is what most places consider the "standard" Sazerac made exclusively with whiskey, while "New York style" is a bit of a historical mashup combining equal parts whiskey and brandy.

While this variation of the drink is not uncommon — both Liquor.com and Bon Appetit list their Sazerac recipes as including a half-and-half mixture of the two alcohols, while BBC Good Food lists the half-and-half recipe as a "popular variation" — the origins of the "New York" name are unclear. Punch notes that most search results for the name result only in Australian publications, none of which offer history or origin which account for the second American-based name. Despite its mysterious origin, the New York Style Sazerac is actually the more popular version of the drink in Australia, with Australian Bartender calling it "the best of both worlds." Even for those who prefer the classic New Orleans take, the addition of the second name differentiating the two versions could be helpful on bar menus going forward given the rising popularity of the mixed-liquor variation, so patrons know exactly what they're ordering.