As another college football weekend approaches, let’s talk whiskey.  All work and no play might save Jack’s liver from decaying into a bile-filled mass of diseased tissue, but the oil man needs a break from the burden of termination clauses, stolen trade secrets, and – as revealed by Yoko and Shawn – desecration of Mother Earth by those toxic gas wells he’s been drilling.

Cheer up, Jack! I’ve reported before on my search. (Perhaps you took the quiz?) Round two is really the neo-Sazerac, and our candidates, all in Dallas, tweak the traditional ingredients to great and tasty effect.

Princi Italia

Alternative ingredient: Black Sambuca instead of Absinthe. It’s lower in alcohol and hence more subtle and smooth than Pernod or Absinthe, with less of an alcoholic jolt. They’ll do it with Woodward Reserve Bourbon if you like. Don’t take them up on the offer – too sweet IMO. Aaron Neville and Linda Ronstadt in a glass.

Hibiscus

Alternative ingredients: Where do I start? Grant, the very excellent mixologist, uses Whistle Pig, a 100 proof rye, and Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters, 80 proof (higher in alcohol than Pernod or Absinthe). The absinthe is misted, rather than rinsed around the inside of the glass. Very cool. The bitters lingers for an aftertaste that’s as soothing as Eric Clapton channeling Elmore James.

A nice, not harsh, alcohol bite. Talking Heads in a glass.

Bonus drink that has no name: Five 50-proof or less Italian Amaro herbal liqueurs, the names of which I don’t know, with a spritz of something called Bittermen’s orange cream citrate, and who-knows-what-else. It’s an aromatic drink that is complex and … I have no idea … Exotic and incomprehensible? King Sunny Ade in a glass.

The Standard Pour

“Neo” in that they mist the absinthe in the glass and then flame it, giving it a kind of caramelized flavor. A tiny bit too much simple syrup IMO.

The Meters in a glass, with a Barrence Whitfield and the Savages chaser.

Enjoy!

A Quiz:

I don’t always read blogs, but when I do, I prefer Energy and the Law.

“Sazerac”: (a) The bar in the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans, (b) A wholly-owned subsidiary of the oil field company with the blue trucks, (c) Cyrano, the French guy with the big nose, (d) A drink comprising rye whiskey, simple syrup, Absinthe or Herbsaint or Pernod, Angostura bitters, and Peychaud’s bitters, (e) a and d.

After attending a party in Baton Rouge, we decamped to a local restaurant, LeCreole, for a nightcap. Having been raised in those environs, I’m no stranger to the local culture. Why not a Sazerac? So I ordered one, and it was good, and at that moment my quest began: To find the perfect Sazerac. Invented before the Civil War in New Orleans, the Sazerac is one of the oldest cocktails in America – kind of like an Old Fashioned without the mulled fruit.

The basics: Rye, I would say, is less distinctive than bourbon or Tennessee whiskey, so it benefits from additional ingredients. Too much Absinthe/Herbsaint/Pernod – all made from the herb anise – and the drink tastes like cough syrup; too much simple syrup and it’s treacly, without the bite necessary for an honest drink.

Disclaimer: Cocktails are like art and music – appreciation is subjective, and everyone is entitled to his opinion. But bad taste has its limits. I refuse to imitate my college frat brother who tried in vain to convince me that Grand Funk Railroad was as talented as the Stones. What follows is an effort to enlighten those who might want to venture off the beaten path mixology–wise. Here are the first four candidates (in no particular order):

Galatoire’s (Second block of Bourbon Street, N.O. – stand just inside the front door in your slacks and jacket on a Saturday afternoon and watch the “revelers” stumble up and down Bourbon Street. Quite entertaining) Leans more toward the whiskey. Traditional, meaning the balance was just where it needed to be.

Hermes (At the entrance to Antoine’s Restaurant in the French Quarter): A lot like Galatoire’s, which means classic. Just what you would expect from a New Orleans bar.

Le Creole (way out Highland Road in Baton Rouge) Heavy on the simple syrup. Just right on the Herbsaint. The treat here was how much the waiter and bartender enjoyed their work, down to tossing the glass in the air to shake out the Pernod. True art.

Di Giulio Brothers (neighborhood restaurant on Perkins Road in B. R. – good food): A bit heavy on the whiskey. Not quite cold enough. Traditionally served neat, the barkeep has to get the glass very cold before pouring.

To be continued. A journey as important as this one is never complete.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EFPU221kPc

Answer to the quiz: e, of course.