by Liz Miller
Tonight, New Orleans-based culinary historian Elizabeth Pearce will present "History in a Glass: The Story of New Orleans through the Sazerac," a complimentary seminar about the culture that created and reflected the Sazerac cocktail at 7 p.m. at Sanctuaria (4198 Manchester Avenue; 314-535-9700). When she's not speaking at seminars across the country, Pearce manages The Cocktail Tour, a walking tour of New Orleans that introduces the cities original libations at associated locations in town, all while sipping each cocktail along the way.
Tonight's seminar sprung of a twist of fate; Pearce visited Sanctuaria on her last stop in St. Louis and greatly enjoyed the bar's eats and artisan cocktails. In addition to sharing the Sazerac's storied history and influence, guests will each be served a drink, learn how to make a Sazerac and receive the recipe to attempt at home. In anticipation of the event, Gut Check caught up with Pearce to discuss the seminar, why the Sazerac is New Orleans' most iconic drink and how to make the cocktail with its official recipe.
Gut Check: What can guests expect at tonight's seminar? Elizabeth Pearce: The story of New Orleans told only through the ingredients of a Sazerac cocktail. It gets people to start thinking about how the ingredients in dishes and drinks come together and are created, and how they are connected to certain places.
GC: Why is the Sazerac such an important cocktail to New Orleans? EP: It was created in New Orleans. All of the ingredients in the cocktail, like Peychaud's Bitters, -- those were invented by a New Orleans pharmacist -- each of the ingredients allows me to talk about all the people that came to New Orleans and contributed to the culture. It's the official cocktail of New Orleans, passed in 2008 by the Louisiana legislature. They didn't even know how right they were; it really does embody the culture of the people of New Orleans. Each ingredient represents a group of people who came to New Orleans and impacted the culture.
GC: Tell us about your walking tour, The Cocktail Tour, in New Orleans. What does the tour involve? EP: The Cocktail Tour takes visitors to some of the more famous locations in the French Quarter like the French market, Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral and the Port of New Orleans. What makes it special is that in New Orleans we have an open container law so you can take the cocktails with you on the tour. Guests on the tour can drink the cocktail in the location connected to the drink. For example, the hurricane was created out of Prohibition, so we're standing at the Mississippi River and I'm talking about rum running, sneaking liquor into the city while drinking the drink.
GC: So where do you drink the Sazerac? EP: We drink the Sazerac while standing in front of the pharmacy where it was created. What I do is focus on the city and the stories of the city. I use each drink to tell those stories.
1 cube sugar 2 ounces Rye Whiskey ¼ ounce Herbsaint 4 to 5 dashes Peychaud's Bitters Lemon peel
Pack an Old-Fashioned glass with ice. In a second Old-Fashioned glass place the sugar cube and add the Peychaud's Bitters to it, then crush the sugar cube. Add the Sazerac Rye Whiskey or Buffalo Trace Bourbon to the second glass containing the Peychaud's Bitters and sugar.
Empty the ice from the first glass and coat the glass with the Herbsaint, then discard the remaining Herbsaint Empty the whiskey/bitters/sugar mixture from the second glass into the first glass and garnish with lemon peel.
Pearce's seminar tonight at Sanctuaria is complimentary and open to the public, however, Sanctuaria stresses that seating is limited to the first 50 people to RSVP.