How to make Le Phénix bartender Marta Ess’s take on a classic New Orleans cocktail
When I Get Back to New Orleans
A gin twist on the classic sazerac, made with pantry supplies
Marta Ess and her team are no strangers to a good pivot. After a fire shut down Chantecler at the end of 2019, the team relocated to Le Phénix, a temporary (at the time) pop up across the street, where they now offer a full menu for patio dining or takeout. “We’ve been through a lot together, this little family,” says Ess.
During quarantine, Ess wanted to sip a drink that reminded her of better times. “I adore New Orleans. I have wonderful friends and memories there, and I can’t wait until I’m allowed to visit again.” This cocktail is her riff on a Sazerac, a quintessential New Orleans cocktail, but with gin subbing in for brandy. “Gin can be a polarizing spirit, but it’s my favourite!” says Ess. “Seeing people enjoy it makes me happy.”
She came up with the idea for this cocktail during the Most Imaginative Bartender Competition finals, where contestants were asked to to come up with a cocktail using basic pantry supplies. “That method of madness relates to the pandemic,” she says, “when we’re pretty limited to using things we’ve got around the house and things we can easily pick up at the LCBO or grocery store, when we do venture out—with our masks on, of course.”
What’s in it
2 oz Bombay Sapphire Gin (or a London Dry Gin of choice)
1/4 oz coffee-cinnamon syrup (recipe below)
1 barspoon (or a small teaspoon) of bitter aperitivo, such as Martini Bitter or Campari
3 healthy dashes of Angostura bitters
2 spritzes of Pastis as garnish (“This is absolutely optional, but can be found at the LCBO, just like all the rest of the spirits listed here”)
Coffee Cinnamon Syrup
1. Combine equal parts white sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar.
2. Once the sugar is dissolved, add a teaspoon of coffee beans (it helps if you can bruise them up a little using a muddler, mortar and pestle, or a heavy wooden spoon), and grate about a teaspoon of cinnamon in. Let the mixture simmer for just under 10 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
4. Fine strain through a mesh strainer (or cheesecloth or coffee filter, whatever you’ve got to keep the bits out) into a clean glass jar. Drop a cinnamon stick in there to hang out, if you want, and seal the jar
5. Refrigerate until completely cool before use.
How to make the drink
1. Add all of the ingredients (minus the Pastis) in a stirring vessel—pint glasses work great for this, so do mason jars.
2. Now add in a very healthy amount of ice (seriously, pack your vessel).
3. Stir until it’s fully chilled and properly diluted—about 50 turns of a spoon should do. Yes, 50.
4. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. If you have a large-format silicone ice trays, oh buddy, now is the time to use one of those cubes.
5. If you don’t have a proper strainer, hold the ice in the vessel using a jar lid or a kitchen spoon as you pour out the cocktail. Don’t let any ice chips in! You can do it!
6. Now this is the optional part: Spritz the top of the drink with some Pastis, a refreshing licorice liqueur. I use a little salad dressing atomizer to do this, but you can honestly just sprinkle some on top using a teaspoon—it’s more about the aroma. If you don’t have Pastis (or if you happen to hate licorice) skip this step, and hit the drink with a swath of orange peel instead.