About tip­ping a glass in the Big Easy

Saz­erac House cel­e­brates cock­tail cul­ture in New Or­leans

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - TRAVEL - By Re­becca San­tana

NEW OR­LEANS – Vis­i­tors to New Or­leans who want to learn more about cock­tails have a new place to go. No, it’s not an­other bar.

The Saz­erac Com­pany, a Louisiana-based spir­its maker, opened the Saz­erac House in early Oc­to­ber.

De­scribed as an “im­mer­sive ex­plo­ration of the spir­ited cul­ture of New Or­leans,” the six-story build­ing houses mul­ti­ple floors of ex­hibits as well as a gift shop and the com­pany’s head­quar­ters.

“We have cre­ated three ex­hibit floors that will show­case the his­tory and tra­di­tions ... of the cock­tail it­self, fea­tur­ing the Saz­erac cock­tail as our name­sake,” said gen­eral man­ager Miguel Solorzano. He said they ex­pect 275,000 vis­i­tors the first year.

“Peo­ple travel from all over the world, not only for our food, our cul­ture but drinks,” he said.

Vis­i­tors can walk through and learn about the city’s cock­tail cul­ture and the var­i­ous spir­its the com­pany makes, es­pe­cially those used in the sig­na­ture New Or­leans drink called the Saz­erac.

Tast­ing is en­cour­aged at the Saz­erac House. Free sam­ples will be given to vis­i­tors, and there will be spe­cial classes and tast­ings daily.

The ren­o­vated build­ing sits just across palm tree-lined Canal Street from the French Quar­ter.

On the first floor is a dis­tillery where the com­pany will make rye whiskey, the key in­gre­di­ent in a Saz­erac. The cus­tom-built still stretches up to the sec­ond floor and is vis­i­ble to tourists walk­ing out­side.

But the first batch won’t be ready to drink for six years as it has to age first. Dis­tillery su­per­vi­sor David Bock said the goal is to give vis­i­tors a feel for how the whiskey is made.

“We are go­ing to show you how to do it on a small scale,” he said.

Three of the floors are open to vis­i­tors while other floors will house things like the com­pany’s head­quar­ters. There’s an ex­ten­sive rum ex­hibit which walks vis­i­tors through the ori­gins of rum pro­duc­tion and its close as­so­ci­a­tion with Louisiana’s su­gar pro­duc­tion.

Vis­i­tors will also get to see how Pey­chaud’s Bit­ters — an­other key in­gre­di­ent to a Saz­erac — is made and see it be­ing bot­tled.

The bit­ters gets its name from cre­ator An­toine Amadie Pey­chaud, who owned an apothe­cary shop in New Or­leans in the 1800s. The ex­act in­gre­di­ents in Pey­chaud’s are pro­pri­etary but in the room de­voted to bit­ters, vis­i­tors can sniff var­i­ous dried herbs and botan­i­cals like star anise or fen­nel seed that can be used to make bit­ters.

Over the decades the in­gre­di­ents in a Saz­erac cock­tail have changed slightly. But served in a chilled old-fash­ioned glass with a twist of lemon peel, it’s still a sta­ple in many bars and restau­rants across town.

It’s one of a hand­ful of cock­tails closely as­so­ci­ated with New Or­leans though much more up­scale than the hur­ri­canes and hand grenades dis­pensed in plas­tic con­tain­ers or sou­venir glasses just a few blocks away on Bour­bon Street or the daiquiris served at drive-thrus.

The Saz­erac House joins the South­ern Food and Bev­er­age Mu­seum as a more high-brow way to learn about the city’s food and drink cul­ture.

GER­ALD HER­BERT/AP

Vis­i­tors touch an in­ter­ac­tive dis­play at the new Saz­erac House, a sixs­tory build­ing on the city’s famed Canal Street.

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