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Shazzerac at Shazz Cafe and Bar

The drink: Absinthe has such a splendid, uninhibited history — inspiring Toulouse-Lautrec, Vincent van Gogh and Oscar Wilde — that it must be great, right? And more of it must be even greater, right? Wrong. For its Sazerac — known as a Shazzerac ($10) — Shazz pours on the absinthe, and that's a mistake. Absinthe is like truffles: A little is a fantastic flavor enhancer, but too much and all you taste is the truffles, and the flavor the truffles are supposed to enhance is lost in a pile of earthiness. When people say they don't like truffles, it's usually because they've gotten over-truffled, or stuck in the mud. Had I never had a good Sazerac before, the Shazzerac would have convinced me I didn't like the drink. But I do, especially when it's made with a great rye like Ri1 Whiskey and Colorado's own Leopold Brothers Absinthe Verte, my favorite absinthe, which is a little sweeter and less harsh than others I've tried. Made properly with those (along with simple syrup and bitters), the Sazerac deserves its title as the Cocktail of the City of New Orleans. Made improperly, it's an unbalanced mess.

The place: While my drink at Shazz was the latter, I found the bar rather pleasant, full of small, convivial groups of neighborhood women drinking wine. There wasn't a man — or a Shazzerac — in sight. But then, absinthe does not always make the heart grow fonder.

 
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