The "Toulouse Red Sazerac"
So many bars and restaurants in New Orleans use "absinthe substitutes" when making the "official cocktail of New Orleans," the Sazerac. Using a substitute is, by definition, using something other than the original. It's time to stop, and here's five reasons why:
1. It's historically accurate. - from the 1850s, when the Sazerac as we know it now, was created, until 1912, absinthe was used to coat the chilled glass, then the rest of the contents poured into the glass. Absinthe was banned in the United States in 1912, forcing bars to use "substitutes."
2. You won't lose your mind. One of the criticisms levelled at absinthe distillers by temperance activists at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries, was the notion that absinthe's green coloring was the result of adding copper salts to the drink. These salts would improve the green tint. While there are cases of shady distillers and sellers "improving" the color of their absinthes, this was not a common practice. It's certainly not happening now--go tour Atelier Vie's distillery in Mid City any weekend they're open to the public for tours and bottle sales, and they'll explain how their product is made.
3. It's not expensive. The Sazerac recipe calls for absinthe to "coat" the glass. Use a pourer on your bottle and let a few drops hit the glass, then rotate the glass to spread it around. That's not even half a shot, so you can afford to use the good stuff.
4. It's more potent. Absinthe substitutes are usually, 90-100 proof (45%-50% alcohol by volume, or ABV). Atelier Vie's Toulouse Red is 136 proof, (68% ABV). When you drink Sazerac with a substitute, you're not getting the same kick you would from Antoine Peychaud's original.
5. It tastes better. The real thing is so much more flavorful. That's why local bars such as 12 Mile Limit and Winston's Pub have crafted cocktails around Toulouse Red and Toulouse Green.
So, next time you're in a bar downtown or in the French Quarter, ask your bartender how they make their Sazerac. If they don't say they use absinthe, request it, and travel back to the 19th Century!