The Great Toronto Cocktail Challenge: Sazerac

One of the great side effects of spending two weeks drinking cocktails is the opportunity to learn all about the things you never even knew you didn't know. For example, prior to this odyssey of alcoholic indulgence - f-yeah! - I pictured the golden age of cocktails to be, ironically, the twenties -- around the time of prohibition.

I imagined barmen in secret underground speakeasies with heavy, metal doors you needed to know the password to get through. Those barmen, distilling their own concoctions using all sorts of bitter herbs and spices and mixing real cocktails, ones with bite.

Part of that fantasy might be true, but one could make a strong argument that the true golden age of cocktails came long before prohibition, way back in the mid nineteenth century and a prime example of that era's supremacy comes in today's cocktail--the Sazerac.

Lucky for me, this drink has made a resurgence as of late in many of the city's finer drinking holes, one of which being Parts & Labour. Say what you like about the place, I'll say this--they've got a great cocktail list and the bartenders are as friendly as they come. But the question remains, how did they do in recreating this 150-year-old cocktail? Lets See:

Sazerac - 2oz, $10.00

Rye whiskey

Top Notes - 8/10
Back in my imaginary golden age of cocktails, drinks came two ways: brown or clear. There were no saccharine, sticky-sour, fluorescent mixers, no powders and no short cuts. That's what I like about the Sazerac--it's served simple. The drink comes in a heavy tumbler served neat with a bit of orange peel. It feels like a real drink, the glass's weight is satisfying and drink is a lovely shade of caramel.

The Back End - 9/10
A Parts & Labour Sazerac uses Canadian Rye Whiskey and Peychaud Bitters--the first, a tip of the hat to our fine country and the second and nod to the original cocktail.

Peychaud bitters, some would argue, are absolutely necessary to make a true Sazerac. Unfortunately they'll virtually impossible to find here in Ontario so most places will use a substitute, which can work in a pinch, but it's nice to have the real thing.

This is, surprisingly, an incredibly smooth cocktail. The sugar all but erases the alcohol's bite while still leaving all the flavour. The top notes of this cocktail are dominated by the absinthe, providing a pleasant anise flavour that slowly gives way to the depth of the whiskey--sublime.

Finish - 9/10
They don't make 'em like this anymore: elegant, sophisticated and still fairly uncommon. It's a well-rounded drink perfect for sipping; strong enough to feel authentic yet smooth enough for even the pickiest of drinkers. A word to the wise though, if you don't see it on the menu don't order it. Done right this is a pretty labour intensive drink and you only want this one done right. Of course, Parts & Labour does it right, and to be honest, at $10.00, it's a damn steal.

TOTAL SCORE: 26/30 (86%)


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