When it comes to staples of the cocktail world, it’s hard to get more iconic than the Sazerac. This classic New Orleans drink is at least 150 years old, and possibly closer to 200, though, as with many drinks, the history can get fuzzy. While originally made with French brandy, it eventually switched over to calling for rye whiskey after phylloxera devastated French wine crops in the late 19th century.
A Sazerac is instantly recognizable by those with bar knowhow, as it’s traditionally served up, but in a chilled Old Fashioned or rocks glass with no garnish or ice rather than traditional stemware. That’s not the case with the Bananarac. This Sazerac variation comes from Natasha David, a star bartender and founder of New York City’s now-closed Nitecap as well as You and Me Cocktails, a bar consulting company. Beyond adding ice, David also adds a rather unexpected ingredient: banana, particularly Giffard Banane du Brésil liqueur.
Rather than decide between rye whiskey and brandy for the base, David opts for a blend of the both, a technique that should be familiar to fans of the Sazerac. In particular, she uses Old Overholt—a popular and affordable rye whiskey of good quality—and Tariquet VSOP armagnac. The brandy here is on the pricy side, around $70 in most markets. Like with any drink, it is possible to substitute something a little less expensive for a more affordable final drink.
The banana element, on the other hand, has no easy substitutions. Giffard Banane du Brésil liqueur is a singular spirit, and while there are other banana liqueurs, few of them are of the same quality as the rich, fruity spirit made with macerated bananas and spiked with cognac. There’s only a half-ounce in the drink, but it comes through with a gentle assertiveness. It adds a unique element to the drink without overwhelming the flavor profile with overt banana-notes.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Sazerac at all without some bitters, but David holds off on the traditional Peychaud’s Bitters that normally give the drink its signature ruby hue. Instead she uses a single dash of The Bitter Truth Old Time aromatic bitters. Like any Sazerac, though, it gets some simple syrup and an absinthe rinse.
- Absinthe, to rinse
- 1 ounce Old Overholt rye whiskey
- 1 ounce Tariquet VSOP armagnac
- 1/2 ounce Giffard Banane du Brésil liqueur
- 1/2 tsp demerara simple syrup
- 1 dash The Bitter Truth Old Time aromatic bitters
- Garnish: lemon twist
Pour a small amount of absinthe into a chilled rocks glass. Swirl to coat the inside, discard any excess and set the glass aside.
Add all remaining ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled.
Strain into the prepared rocks glass over fresh ice.
Twist a swath of lemon peel over the drink to express its oils and discard.