I have always had an affinity for the French.
It runs in my family: There's French blood on my mom's side, I spoke with my grandfather better in French than Vietnamese, and my dad sang me French songs when I was a child, so it shouldn't be a surprise that when 14-year-old Charles Lam had to choose between French and Spanish, he choose the less useful one (At least it's more romantic… right?).
The Francophilia has leeched into my drinking. Belgian ales (they count), cognac (the drink of my people), absinthe (who doesn't love anise seed?), I love them all.
So when I heard that the sazerac Jefferson VanBillard concocted at Memphis was “the Frenchiest thing” he's ever made, well…here's this review, isn't it?.
It's true. That sazerac is the most French thing I've ever consumed, and I spent a good chunk of my last year as a French major sitting at the bar in the Anthill Pub, drinking wine, eating cheese and reading French poetry.
It's a mix of cognac, both Peychaud's and Angostura bitters, a chartreuse blend and Turbinado sugar served straight up in a glass spritzed with absinthe and a sole sliver of lemon rind.
For a drink that's all alcohol, the sazerac is exceedingly mellow and goes a great job of being an autumn cocktail without being an “autumn” cocktail. There's no cinnamon, no apple, no freaking pumpkin spice, but it tastes nice and herbal. It leaves you nice and warm and is almost medicinal — in a you're-going-to-sleep-well kind of way. This sazerac is the kind of drink you want when you feel like journaling or being morose or conquering the rest of mainland Europe as an emperor.
The absinthe is the perfect touch. The spritzing not only coats the glass, it perfumes the air, filling your little bubble with a personal fleeting moment. The drink itself is actually anise light, and after a few, you'll start to question whether it was ever even there at all.