Zazarac: Not a misprint. Just a mixstake

The obscure Zazarac is not a misspelled Sazerac. It’s a drink unto itself. Its obscurity likely derives from the fact that nobody who makes it once is likely to do so again

One of the most obscure drinks I’ve blundered across is the Zazarac.

That may seem like a misspelling of the Sazerac, that otherworldly classic that comes to us via mid-19th century New Orleans. And some will argue that the Zazarac was the same drink, spelled differently as a litigation dodge.

But there are better reasons to believe that the Zazarac, as captured in certain editions of Harry Craddock’s definitive-for-its-time The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), is its own thing.

And what a peculiar thing it is.

Zazaracs: Not just a spelling difference

Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails, the definitive scholarly exhumation of defunct cocktails, mentions two versions of the Zazarac, which he found typed in a 1930s bartender’s pocket notebook.

I’ve lined them up below, adding what I’m calling #3, which appears in Harry Craddock’s book.

Z2 chart

 

As you can see, the household comprises one perfect child and three black sheep.

The Sazerac and Zazaracs #s 2 and 3 all abide by the classic definition of a “cocktail”: Base spirit, sugar, and bitters. All share absinthe. But from there things get hairy.

  • Z1 omits bitters, flouting the “cocktail” definition. It adds sweet vermouth and Amer Picon [a dark, bittersweet, fragrant French apertif, a bit like Italy’s Averna]. It tosses in curacao, an orange liqueur similar to Cointreau or triple sec. So it goes in pretty deep with orange.
  • Z2 uses Peychaud’s, sure enough, but then tosses in orange bitters and Amer Picon — again, an unusual commitment to orange.
  • Z3, explored below, adds white rum as a second base spirit [!], and anisette, a sweet licorice-flavored liqueur whose anis-y power essentially doubles down on the absinthe. It retains a hint of orange only via the bitters.

It seems unlikely to me that any of the Zazaracs were attempts to produce the Sazerac and avoid legal trouble with the New Orleans Sazerac House importer, the French maker of Sazerac cognac, or any number of taverns nationwide with the same name.

At best they are heavy-handed riffs, at worst original desecrations.

And since all versions add to rather than replace ingredients of the Sazerac [excepting the swap of bitters in #3], it seems unlikely that early American supply chain issues drove these variations.

Nope. These Zazaracs are not legal dances to stay out of court. For better or worse, but mainly worse, they are purposeful creations unto themselves.

The Sazerac and the Zazarac have as much in common as a lucid dream and your kitchen junk drawer.

 

 

Zazarac cocktail Craig Stoltz A Measured Spirit Cocktail Blog
The Zazarac cocktail: It’ll put a [mis-]spell[ing] on you.
The Zazarac recipe presented here is a modified version of what appears in Wikipedia.

I know that’s lame, but bear with me. There’s a lot of confusion here, and the Wikipedia one appears to hunker pretty closely to one in the Savoy book, which became the reference recipe going forward.

Anyhow: Let’s grab a pair of tins and shake things up.

Actually we should stir them up, but that’s another twist in this odd little tale.

Zazarac Cocktail recipe [via Craddock, I think]

  • 1 oz rye
    • Or Canadian whiskey — Canadian Club if you want to get specific. Canadian whiskeys skew more rye-heavy, so this alternative makes sense. 
  • .5 oz rum
    • I used Bacardi white, which aligns with several recipes I dug up.
  • .5 oz anisette
    • I used pastis, a French version of that family of licorice-flavored beverages. To be more historically and culinarily accurate — and I know how deeply important that is to you — you should use Sambuca or Ouzo. It’s a maceration vs. distillation thing, and an anis vs. licorice thing, for what it’s worth.  
  • .5 rich simple syrup
    • “Rich” simple syrup mixes sugar to water 2:1. The original called for gum arabic, aka gomme syrup, an even sweeter elixir. 
  • 3 dashes absinthe
    • Yeah, I know. Absinthe + anisette. Anisette — pastis in particular — is often used in place of absinthe. Why use both in the same drink? Who knows? Worse: Many Craddock follow-ons call for .5 oz absinthe. 
  • 1 dash each Angostura and orange bitters

Shake, strain into an Old Fashioned glass, garnish with lemon peel.

The recipes all say to shake, though there’s no citrus in sight. Maybe that’s a relic of the days when gummy gomme was used, which may have needed more agitation. Beats me.

Continue reading “Zazarac: Not a misprint. Just a mixstake”

Of all the rum joints in the world….the Casablanca cocktail

Why would a rum drink be called the Casablanca? It doesn’t matter. Just make it

This version of a drink called the Casablanca is an outlier: No competing exotic backstories, disputed claims of authorship, layers of footnotes, etc. Nobody appears to take credit for this drink.

They should. It’s really good.

I thumbed across it in the encyclopedic but completely undistinguished The Ultimate Bar Book by Mittie Hellmich, which provides no detail about provenance. Neither does any online or print reference I could find.

One would assume this drink is somehow linked to the classic 1942 movie of the same name. This appears unlikely.

  • In the film, Humphrey Bogart’s Rick Blaine drinks Scotch.
  • He refers to his Moroccan watering hole as a “gin joint.” [Says Rick famously to Ilsa: “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.”]
  • I haven’t seen the movie enough to say for certain that no rum is served at Rick’s American Cafe, but the carfare between North Africa and the Caribbean alone, you’d think, would be a limiting factor.
The Casablanca cocktail recipe Craig Stoltz Measured Spirit cocktail blog
The Casablanca cocktail appears to have nothing to do with the classic movie. Who cares? It’s a delightful craft cocktail-ish spin on the Daiquiri .

A Measured Spirit Surmise™: In Spanish, “casa blanca” means “white house.” Spanish is spoken throughout the Caribbean, cradle of rum. Rum was originally made on sugar plantations, where presumably The Big House was white.

Don’t pause to ponder. Just make this drink: Continue reading “Of all the rum joints in the world….the Casablanca cocktail”

The Cocktail-o-Matic

A long-forgotten 1950s product applies “modern” technologies to re-invent the ink-on-paper cocktail recipe book. You can figure out how this one ends

The 1950s were the flowering of American modernity — an aesthetic sensibility, tugged along by a newly affluent middle class, devoted to clean lines, simple forms, and a sense of an urgent new century unfolding.

The 1950s were also some really stupid times.

Witness the Bar Guide.

Bar Guide Measured Spirit cocktail recipes Craig Stoltz blog
The Bar Guide: A 1950s technology breakthrough that failed spectacularly to make paper-bound cocktail recipe books obsolete. Pictured at right: #79, the XYZ cocktail.

The Bar Guide is a shiny plastic device the size of a Canasta deck that updates the cocktail recipe book with “hep” modern technologies like plastic, newfangled printing methods, and a cool thumb wheel with traction grooves.

Its chief accomplishment appears to be transforming something that works quite well into something that’s confusing, hard to use, and easy to break.

And this was way before the Barnes & Noble “Nook GlowLight Plus.”

I’m thinking of a number between 1 and 80

Located at the heart of the Bar Guide is a paper scroll bearing 80 numbered cocktail recipes, each condensed to the size of a fortune cookie.

Continue reading “The Cocktail-o-Matic”

Happy Hour Quickie #4: Moscow Mule

This week’s fast, easy, and effective recipe. Hey, you’ve got only an hour

This week’s Happy Hour Quickie© abides by 2 of our strict HHQ™ rules — it comes together quickly and is impossible to screw up.

But the third rule — that it require only easily available ingredients — is a slight stretch. You may have to visit a decent grocery or package store to provision one key ingredient.

A Measured Spirit cocktail recipe blog Craig Stoltz
To make a proper Measured Spirit Moscow Mule, you must use Fever Tree ginger beer. You must not use a large copper mug.

Happy Hour Quickie recipe: Moscow Mule

  • 2 oz vodka [1.5 oz for the more sessionable version — which is to say a drink of which you can have more than two without having to summon Lyft]
    • As with nearly all vodka drinks, brand just doesn’t matter. But Smirnoff’s is the original. Don’t use any of those high-priced Gray-vedere-roc-whatever brands. Total waste. 
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
    • Most recipes call only for a lime wedge garnish.  I like the addition of citrus juice.  Eliminate it if you wish.
  • 4 oz [measured] Fever Tree Ginger Beer
    • Use only this product, which has a high-spice, make-your-lips-tingle buzz. Most easily available ginger beers [Barrett’s] are too wan to carry the drink.  

Squeeze the lime juice into an Collins glass, a double Old Fashioned, or a small copper mug. Add the vodka. Fill the vessel with cracked ice. Top with the Fever Tree.

Garnish with a slice of lime. Feeling rakish? Just toss the spent lime shell on top. Continue reading “Happy Hour Quickie #4: Moscow Mule”

Happy Hour Quickie #3: Daiquiri

This week’s fast, easy, and effective recipe. Hey, you’ve got only an hour

This week’s Happy Hour Quickie — in addition to meeting the strict HHQ rules that the drink must be made from easily available ingredients, come together quickly, and be impossible to screw up — is a seasonal classic.

Happy Hour Quickie Daiquiri recipe

DaiquiriThis week I offer my favorite version, an evolved/stolen/tweaked Daiquiri that meets my preference for tart over sweet:

  • 1.5 oz white rum
    • Mid-shelf, ol-dependable, easy-on-the-wallet Bacardi works just fine
  • 1 oz lime juice
    • Fresh-squoze only — you knew that
  • .75 simple syrup
    • 1 oz for the more common, sweeter, arguably more balanced version

Shake and strain into a Martini glass or coupe [stronger], or over fresh ice in an Old Fashioned glass or, with cubes, into a Collins glass [more “sessionable“].

The drink can go naked or wear a lime wheel on the rim. Continue reading “Happy Hour Quickie #3: Daiquiri”

The Tom Waits cocktail: “27 Stitches”

Tom Waits no longer drinks. This didn’t stop me from creating a beverage inspired by his characters and stories. Warning: Things get a little weird

If you’re acquainted with Tom Waits — the most important and breathtakingly talented songwriter and performer of his generation I-don’t-care-what- you-say-because-if-you-disagree-you’re-wrong — you’d think it would be easy to come up with a Tom Waits drink.

Many of Waits’ early songs are exquisite, heartbreaking, often hilarious soundscapes where the main characters have been, to put it generously, over-served. Just a few titles illustrate: “The Piano has Been Drinking.” “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart.” “Gin-Soaked Boy.”

Waits with bottles
Tom Waits in his reckless youth: “Half drunk most of the time / all drunk the rest”

Until he met his wife Kathleen Brennan in 1987 and together they embarked on a remarkable journey of musical exploration that too few people know about, Waits says he lived a lot like the Bowery-bum scoundrels and layabouts that populate his songs.

Life moves along. He reports that he had his last drink in 1992. He credits Brennan with saving his life. Continue reading “The Tom Waits cocktail: “27 Stitches””

Pimp my Gin & Tonic

So I was in the butcher shop, of all places, and came across a cocktail curiosity completely new to me: Carmencita’s Botanicals for Gin & Tonic.

Essentially the product provides little bits of some of the botanicals often found in gin. You plop them into your Gin & Tonic to add additional flavor and scents and whatnot.

This kit ($6.95) contains pink peppercorns, juniper berries, cardamom pods, and hibiscus flowers.
Cocktail blog Craig Stoltz Carmencita Gin and Tonic Recipe A Measured Spirit

Gimmicky?  Sure! But it’s a pretty nifty way to dress up an often samey standby.

First, the visuals are great — vivid, colorful little things either stirred below the ice or resting on top, or both. As the minutes pass the hibiscus bleeds off some of its crimson hue, creating a floaty red smudge.

Gin & tonic recipe Craig Stoltz A Measured Spirit cocktail blog
The Carmencita: Just add gin and tonic.

Flavors? Less so, but still usefully additive.

The cardamom provides a surprisingly nice nose. [On my second experiment I gently broke the shell of the pods and the effect was enhanced. In time the pink peppercorns add some bite. The juniper? Seems redundant, and I’m not sure you need to turn up that flavor in a gin.

I know what you’re thinking. [I always know what you’re thinking. How do I do it?] Can’t you just buy the spices and and save a lot of money?

Why, yes, I can. And I will.

I’ll thank Carmencita every time.