How do you drink your tequila? I bet it’s not like this!
Switching out spirits in classic cocktails is a lot of fun. The difference can be profound (think swapping gin for whisky to turn a negroni into a boulevardier) or it can be quite subtle. Here’s our agave riff on a sazerac.
What a wonderful mix: barrel-aged spirit, two types of aromatic bitters, a little sugar, a touch of absinthe and a zing of citrus. That's a sazerac—one of the true classic cocktails.
I must confess I do love a rye sazerac. Especially when it’s made with Archie Rose's excellent Rye Malt Whisky.
But in truth, the original sazerac recipe uses cognac as its base spirit. Over time, rye whiskey has become more common—and to be honest, I think it’s better.
There’s more spice and less sweetness with rye, and the herbaceous flavours of the bitters and absinthe play a bigger role.
But what happens when you use an Australian agave spirit instead?
Australian Craft Tequila
Here in Australia—in fact everywhere else in the world other than Mexico—we call tequila 'agave spirit'. That’s because only Mexican distilleries have the right to apply the word tequila to labels of a product they’ve been making for over 1,000 years.
And rightly so.
But agave spirit in Australia is made in the traditional way using blue agave plants, just like real Mexican tequila, and the harvesting and distillation methods all come from the jimadors of Mexico too.
While distilleries like Black Snake Distillery roast their agave to make a rich, smoky spirit in the style of mezcal, Mount Uncle Distillery in the Atherton Tablelands of Far North Queensland makes agave spirit in the modern tequila style.
Owner-distiller Mark Watkins makes three types of agave spirit on his farm near the slopes of Mount Uncle: a tequila-blanca style un-aged spirit, a golden reposado style and a dark anejo aged spirit.
It’s this last one—the anejo dark agave—that I’m using in my sazerac.
This delicious agave liquor drinks beautifully on its own with ice, featuring all the prominent notes of careful fermentation, distillation and barrel ageing you’d expect from one of Australia’s if not the world’s best craft rum makers.
The difference is the agave plant brings spicy vegetal notes and an oiliness that matches so well with the botanicals used in a sazerac cocktail.
How To Make An Aussie Agave Sazerac Cocktail
- 10ml simple sugar syrup (1:1 sugar and water)
- 3 dashes of Peychaud's Bitters
- 1 dash of Angostura Bitters
- Sliver of lemon peel
1. Chill an old fashioned glass really well with ice and cold water.
2. In a mixing jar, combine the bitters, syrup and Mount Uncle Distillery Dirt Road Dark Agave over lots of ice and stir well.
3. Discard the ice and water from the glass and rinse with the absinthe to coat the glass, then discard (aka drink) the excess absinthe.
4. Strain the cocktail into the glass then twist and wring out the lemon peel over the glass, and wipe the rind around the rim.
If you prefer it, you can drop the lemon peel into the drink, though purists don’t. You can also use an oversize ice cube in the drink too if you want, although again, traditionalists would recoil. But then we are using agave spirit instead of cognac or rye whisky.
So go for your life!
The result is a short cocktail that looks so simple with no ice or garnish to decorate it.
Yet within its golden depths, this drink hides an amazing array of complex flavours and aromas, and a smooth silken texture. A wonderful drink.