Cocktail & Other Recipes By Spirit Rye Whiskey Cocktails

6 Sazerac Twists to Try Right Now

The cognac-versus-rye debate gets a new spin with these riffs.

Kanar sazerac
Kanar Sazerac Image:

Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

The classic Sazerac is a powerful mix of rye whiskey and/or cognac, Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters, and simple syrup (or occasionally a sugar cube), with a rinse of absinthe. The resulting concoction is one of the easier spirit-forward cocktails to toss back, with its crisp, uplifting flavor.

It’s a cocktail made in the Old-Fashioned style—spirit, sugar, water, bitters—with roots in the Creole-influenced southern city of New Orleans, where the cocktail was effectively born and popularized in the 19th century. Although it was originally created with rye whiskey, modern iterations often use cognac or a split base of both cognac and rye.

The Sazerac can be a temperamental cocktail, calling for the perfect balance of temperature, dilution and ingredients used, but it’s one of the more memorable classic cocktails when crafted properly. If you’re familiar with the classic version of the drink and are looking to taste some unique takes on the spirituous staple, these are a half-dozen to try.

  • Bananarac

    Bananarac cocktail

    Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

    A Sazerac riff with banana liqueur? Say no more. The Bananarac is an original recipe from New York bartender Natasha David and it balances sophisticated spirits with approachable flavors. The base is a split of rye whiskey and Armagnac, which is then built on with banana liqueur, demerara syrup and aromatic bitters. David kept the recipe true to tradition with a lemon twist and absinthe spritz, but it’s really the banana flavor—be sure to use the high-quality liqueur David specifies—that sets this variation apart from the rest. 

    Get the recipe.

  • Pumpkin Sazerac

    Pumpkin Sazerac

    Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

    Spiced pumpkin gets a bad rap because of the ubiquitous latte that appears every autumn, but the flavors themselves are fantastic in drinks both caffeinated and boozy. Star bartender Naren Young uses real pumpkin to craft a spiced pumpkin syrup that pairs exceptionally well with the cocktail’s rye whiskey base. Those flavors are combined with Peychaud’s bitters and absinthe, producing the perfect Sazerac to enjoy throughout the colder months of the year. For the pumpkin haters, this cocktail might just change your mind.

    Get the recipe.

  • Golden Sazerac

    White Summer Sazerac

    Giuseppe Gonzalez

    Ex-New York City bartender Giuseppe González named this variation after the unique golden sweetener he uses called Lyle’s golden syrup. It’s a subtle riff on the classic version with a base of VSOP cognac, a rinse of absinthe and Peychaud’s bitters, and it showcases the versatility of the Sazerac and how even the smallest of changes produce such a differently flavored drink. The expressed oil from a lemon twist ties it all together with a bright citrus aroma.

    Get the recipe.

  • White Summer Sazerac

    White Summer Sazerac

    Steven Freihon

    This riff pushes the boundaries of how far the Sazerac can be pushed while still being considered a Sazerac. Best for advanced cocktail enthusiasts, the White Summer Sazerac uses a split base of four spirits: moonshine, rye whiskey, brandy and Italicus rosolio di bergamotto liqueur. A few spritzes of absinthe to coat the glass lend a strong herbal note with anise at the forefront, while simple syrup adds body and balance, and two types of bitters plus celery salt finish off the cocktail’s complex flavors. 

    Get the recipe.

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  • La Tour Eiffel

    La Tour Eiffel

    Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

    The late Gary “Gaz” Regan imagined what the Sazerac would be like if it had been invented in France instead of New Orleans, and he produced this nuanced variant. XO cognac, Cointreau, absinthe and the bitter gentian-dominated Suze combine with the traditional lemon twist to form a bitter and powerful take on the classic Sazerac. Stir it with your finger as Gaz would, or opt for the more conventional route and use a bar spoon. Either way, tread lightly with this one—It packs a punch.

    Get the recipe.

  • Kanar Sazerac

    Kanar Sazerac

    Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

    If you happen to love both sci-fi and a stiff drink, this bitter riff on the Sazerac is perfect for you. This “Star Trek”-inspired tipple uses a split base of cognac and Fernet-Branca amaro, famed for its status as a favorite among bartenders. Simple syrup, orange and Angostura bitters, and a salt rim complete the cocktail adventure, making for a drink that’s far from subtle. 

    Get the recipe.