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Toast 


Are you still speaking to me, dear barfly? It’s been, what? Five months since I promised you a cocktail made with eggs and powdered sugar and frothing with post-Prohibition euphoria?

And it’s going to be a while longer before that promise is fulfilled, but you should have thrown out those eggs long ago, anyway, and that powdered sugar will keep till the Kentucky Derby, when you can use it as a secret weapon in the finest Mint Julep at the Downs.

In any case, you know that when it comes to the cups, momma’s a travelin’ gal: She makes wild promises, takes a trip, spends a few days abuzz with goodwill, and returns with a new cocktail sweetheart on her knee. No cause for heartbreak in the end, though, since the last cut-and-run (to Beantown) netted you the Whiskey Smash and an updated Applejack.

Your booty from my recent NYC jaunt: a reintroduction to the Sazerac, a confection that relied on absinthe before it was outlawed stateside (Pernod once again offers an absinthe version, but we’ll use the regular star-anise flavor here). It’s mellow, round, and licorice-sweet, with an austerely bitter bottom note. You can also sub it for “martini” in that saucy ditty about huevos: one’s not enough and three’s too many, so in its way its economical.

The Sazerac was born in New Orleans, where, according to Wikipedia and a friend who has been to the eponymous Sazerac Coffee House, entrepreneuer John Schiller named both after a popular cognac. But this (hastily straightened) stockings-and-jacket drink tastes geographically correct late nights in Dorothy Parker’s old upscale flophouse, the Algonquin Hotel.

Drinks are served in the Blue Bar and the enormous beaux-artes lobby, which bustles like a jungle-movie set with carpet fronds, tapestry cranes, and heraldic wall sconces. Somewhere in the infinite whiskey-fueled gloam tourists finger a facsimile of the famous Algonquin Round Table room where Parker, Robert Benchley, and their fellow Deco-era literary lights sliced and diced, and occasional peeps of music and stage lighting escape from the equally storied Oak Room cabaret. You can create a pale shadow of this heady ambience in your living room. Gather close the ficus, dim the lamps, cue the Harry Connick, and:

Coat a chilled rocks glass with Pernod; discard any extra. To an ice-filled glass, add 2 ounces cognac, 1/4 ounce simple syrup, four dashes Peychaud’s bitters and 2 dashes Angostura bitters. Stir until chilled and strain into the rocks glass. Sip slowly.

— Elaine Wolff


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February 24, 2021

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