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”

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”

Math + alcohol = x + why?

Some simple mathematical formulas can produce fine, solid cocktails. They can also produce undrinkable plonk.

Mixing drinks that don’t taste like they were wrung out of a wet t-shirt from a spring break dance party can be tough for rookie drinksmakers. This I know from hard, unpleasant experience. For this I apologize to all affected parties over the years.

And so I appreciate attempts like this one, from a recent issue of bon appetit magazine, to convey some practical fundamentals of mixology to a lay audience. It’s a simple graphic that illustrates how to assemble a basic sour cocktail from, well, just about anything you have around.

Follow a formula — 2 oz base/1.5 oz modifiers equally split between sweet and sour —  and it’s hard to mess up too badly, no matter what’s in the bottles. The results are solid, if unspectacular. Good bones, as they say.

Sour wheel A Measured Spirit Craig Stoltz

Continue reading “Math + alcohol = x + why?”

The Ramos Gin Fizz, shaken — seriously shaken

Every once in a while, technology helps us experience history. Witness the Ramos Gin Fizz, whipped up with a device not unlike a paint-can shaker.

Not long ago I was lucky enough to be seated at the private bar at the Velvet Tango Room, a serious craft cocktail joint of high ambition and national repute in Cleveland.

Serious, you ask? They measure ingredients by the gram, on a scale. They make virtually every classic drink, based on historical sources, and offer a big list of well-crafted originals. The roving order-takers are barkeeps themselves on rotation, to ensure regular contact with customers. A live jazz combo plays in the corner.

So: On the menu I see a Ramos Gin Fizz [ca. 1888, New Orleans], a hard-to-spot classic I’ve been warned to order only when in good hands. It requires the fairly obscure ingredient orange blossom water, for one thing, and between 3 and 12 [!] minutes of vigorous — even “violent,” as some recipes say — shaking.

So much shaking, in fact, that 19th century accounts report that the tins were passed among multiple bartenders, as no man working alone could possibly produce the amount of agitation required.

The barkeep smiled when I ordered it. Continue reading “The Ramos Gin Fizz, shaken — seriously shaken”

Cocktails, built to federal standards

“I’m from the federal government, and I’m here to help you mix a drink.”

I’ve picked up some curious artifacts in my reckless cocktail expeditioning. One of the most curious curios so far is this: A 1974 engineering diagram issued by the U.S. Forest Service documenting proper techniques for constructing a cocktail.
Continue reading “Cocktails, built to federal standards”

The Not-Japanese Cocktail

This recipe appears in America’s very first cocktail book, Jerry Thomas’ “How to Mix Drinks.” But it’s not even a little bit Japanese.

japanese-cocktail-jerry-thomas2

To explain why the Japanese cocktail has nothing Japanese about it, drinks historian David Wondrich tells the story in his book Imbibe.

Short version: In 1860 the first Japanese diplomatic delegation to visit the U.S. was in New York, lodged not far from Jerry Thomas’ bar on Broadway. Thomas, America’s first celebrity barkeep and author of How to Mix Drinks or The Bon-Vivant’s Companion (1862), may have served this drink to the delegates. Like most ancient cocktail history [Wondrich will be the first to admit], the story is built on rickety inference and hopeful attempts to associate long-disconnected dots.

Anyhow, the Japanese Cocktail is one of a few drinks in that seminal text that’s easy to make from contemporary ingredients.

Continue reading “The Not-Japanese Cocktail”

The Algonquin: No Sirree!

A classic that’s leave-it-on-the-kitchen-counter-when-the-host-isn’t-looking bad.

Algonquin cocktail review Craig Stoltz
Three people walk into an elevator at the Algonquin hotel. One of them farts.

I’m generally no bellyacher. But in my blunderings through cocktail literature I just surfaced a real stinker, and feel compelled to sound  an amicus alarm.

The decoction I refer to is the Algonquin cocktail, which shows up on diligent lists of American Classics — A sip of history! A brush with greatness! Etc. Etc. Etc.

The drink is named after the venerable New York hotel where a group of early 20th century literati famously assembled at the restaurant’s “Round Table.”

Most members of the “Vicious Circle” were hotshot columnists, critics, editors, and writers [Alexander Woollcott, Dorothy Parker, Harold Ross], with a few playwrights and, on a good day, Harpo Marx.  Continue reading “The Algonquin: No Sirree!”