Dapper Dan is back.
Well, he was back; but now he's gone again. Although he should be returning once more very shortly, and sticking around for the best part of a year. This is good news, since he is the most refined and erudite of drinking companions (although his self-designed and hand-tailored clothes do offer rather too high a contrast with the thrift-store shambles of my own wardrobe).
On my first - serendipitous - reunion with him a couple of weeks ago, he whisked us all over to Q bar, where he insisted on treating us to a Sazerac. Dapper Dan, in addition to being The Most Elegantly Dressed Man In Town, is also an eminent 'mixologist' - and a good friend of George, the amiable boss of Q (and formerly of Midnight, one of my lamented lost favourites), with whom he loves to trade cocktail talk. The Sazerac, it seems, was a new one on George, and he was eager to get the recipe down right. In fact, such is his ruthless perfectionism, that he poured his first one or two efforts down the sink, as they didn't seem quite right to Dan's demanding palate. Thus, mixing up four of the buggers took a fair bit of time - but it was worth the wait.
I'd heard of the drink before, of course; it's one of the classic New Orleans cocktail inventions, and most of the bars down there advertise it. But somehow, despite all the time I've spent in NO over the past dozen years, I don't think I'd ever got around to trying it.
Though originally, I learn, made with Cognac (a brand called Sazerac-du-Forge, hence the name), by the 1870s this had been displaced by good rye whiskey; and there is today a specialised brand of rye called Sazerac which purists favour for making the drink, although other good ryes are acceptable. It should also contain a few drops of a distinctive bitters, Peychaud's, which is made in New Orleans (its creator, a Creole apothecary named Antoine Peychaud, is also credited with inventing the Sazerac); although, again, alternatives are permissible if necessary (and some authorities suggest that a drop or two of Angostura, in addition to or substitution for the Peychaud's, is an agreeable refinement - although you have to be careful about saying that in New Orleans). A chilled lowball glass should be rinsed with good French absinthe (although during the dark days of absinthe's prohibition, other aniseed-flavoured drinks were substituted; and in New Orleans they still favour a locally-made pastis called Herbsaint). You add a sugar cube with the bitters soaked in (or a teaspoon of gomme syrup, according to some; to be preferred, I would say, since the grittiness of part-dissolved sugar is rarely very attractive), pour in the rye, and wring a twist of lemon over the top and around the rim (purists say you shouldn't actually add the twist to the drink as a garnish, but that's another common optional add-on). It is a remarkably complex and satisfying drink.
It could well become a favourite. If I could afford to go to Q more than once every 3 months.....