The Cocktail Super Bowl: The Sazerac Versus The Hurricane

The 2 cocktails from New Orleans face off in terms of history, legend, and taste
New Orleans Cocktail History

SoBou's bar chef Abigail Deidre Gullo explains the unique place of New Orleans in the history of boozy drinks

While all eyes may be on this year's Super Bowl and its host, New Orleans, our eyes are glancing at something else: the drinks. And New Orleans, rich in cocktail history, is home to two of the most beloved cocktails around. While some may go for a Budweiser during the big game (those beer commercials do make us thirsty), or a $10,000 New Orleans cocktail, we go for the Sazerac and the Hurricane. 

Which New Orleans cocktail is right for you this Super Bowl Sunday? Check out the "stats" below:

The Sazerac

Year of Birth: Around 1850

Birthplace: Originally called Merchant Exchange Coffee House, it was renamed as the Sazerac House

History: According to cocktail historian David Wondrich, the drink was originally made with a brand of cognac called Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils and Peychaud's bitters, then made by local pharmacist Antoine Amedie Peychaud. Eventually, the recipe was recorded in William T. "Cocktail Bill" Boothby's book The World's Drinks and How to Mix Them.

The original Sazerac cognac, however, eventually depleted, thanks to the phylloxera epidemic that nearly wiped out Europe's vineyards and caused a worldwide brandy shortage. After that, explains, the typical base for the Sazerac cocktail became rye whiskey. Eventually the Sazerac House was bought by Thomas Handy, who published the (whiskey) recipe and began selling premixed Sazeracs in bottles. (Batch cocktails before they were even cool!)

Secret Ingredient: It all comes down to the Peychaud's bitters, the bitters that Peychaud once added to brandy toddies. The Sazerac Company also notes that the original recipe includes "Herbsaint," an anise-flavored liqueur and — the real "magic" of the drink — absinthe.

Popularity Today: It's what Wondrich calls "a wonderfully butch sort of tipple" — so you're more likely to find lovers of Old Fashioneds and Manhattans drinking Sazeracs than those drinking a Hurricane.

The Hurricane

Year of Birth: During World War II

Birthplace: Pat O'Brien's Bar

History: According to Pat O'Brien's, the Hurricane quickly rushed in an era of popularity (and, well, boozy drinks.) During World War II, the darker spirits like whiskey, bourbon and scotch were nearly impossible to get. However, the rum was flowing — and to get their hands on any sort of whiskey, the bar owners were forced to buy as many as 50 cases of rum. (Not such a terrible problem.) Naturally, the bar owners had to do something with all that rum, and eventually came up with the Hurricane recipe — a mix of passion fruit syrup, dark rum, and lemon juice. 

The drink is named for the Hurricane lamps, as the glasses they were served in looked very similar (so anytime you see a giant punch bowl at a bar, it's more likely than not to be a Hurricane). Of course, the original recipe for the Hurricane is a bit more difficult to find — especially, as the blog Tempered Spirits notes, Pat O'Briens soon changed its fresh ingredients to a mix. 

Secret Ingredient: Well, rum — there are 4 ounces in a single serving of the Hurricane, so... we guess you'd like just about anything with that much liquor in it. Add in passion fruit syrup, which is harder and harder to find premixed.

Popularity Today: "Certainly one of the most visible beverages in the French Quarter, this bright red, rum-based drink is the de facto emblem for the bar that created it... and has been widely copied around town," notes writer Ian McNulty on the blog French Quarter.

Related Stories
Behind the Drink: The SazeracVIDEO: Chamomile Sazerac RecipeWhat Is a Hurricane Cocktail?

So which is it for you? The man's man rye drink, or the fruity drink of college campuses — er, we mean New Orleans? There's a New Orleans cocktail for everyone this Super Bowl. Click here for the recipes for a rum Sazerac (including a demo for the Chamomile Sazerac variation) and the Hurricane.