charcuterie — and, as they tap the plates, the food slowly disappears. But this is a warm-up for the digital centerpiece of the museum: a full bar, the counter of which is a deceptive interactive display, and behind the bar, virtual bartenders driven by artificial intel- ligence. Take a seat and any one of the group of bartenders will take your order, walking you through the entire mixology process while riffing lightly on the history of the cocktail in question and firing off droll

premium experience, sampling stations throughout Sazerac House ensure that guests do not leave thirsty. The undisputed climax of a visit to Sazerac House is the working, two-story still producing Sazerac Rye whiskey on-site. Some will be bottled right here for the taking, and a barrel per day will be shipped to Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky for aging. I

had never seen an actual whiskey still before, and do not know if they all look like the one at Sazerac House, but it is nothing short of a masterpiece. It looks a lot like an enormous, vertical, clarinet in brass, or maybe the upper stack of a saxophone. It is 60 inches in diameter and houses 500 gallons of whiskey. Because it is built adjacent to the building’s main façade on Canal Street, the sheer grandeur of it as seen through a massive plate-glass window will surely draw in countless curious guests, irresistibly drawn to see what all the fuss is about. This being balmy South Louisiana, the still requires an enormous “thermal energy tank” that’s 2,200 gallons large and able to make 14,000 pounds of ice every night — necessary to keep conditions just right for distillation even on the hottest summer day. Sazerac House has a fourth floor — a 3,500-square-foot ballroom for formal functions — and its fifth and sixth floors are reserved as the Sazerac Company’s corporate headquarters. Such a prestigious location is fitting for perhaps the oldest and most successful family-owned business in New Orleans. Down on the first floor, no interactive experience would be complete without a retail shop where guests can find cocktail kits, spirits (get the cognac while you can) and Sazerac-branded souvenirs to take home. My first tour of Sazerac House found me walking through empty corridors and large, open-air rooms, the footsteps of my companions

one-liners. (Each bartender has their own unique personality.) The “drink” appears in front of you, and you can send the recipe right to your smartphone. Throughout Sazerac House are artifacts going back centuries — everything from ledgers like the original, early-19th-century ones from the original Merchants Exchange Coffee House, through paintings of Bernard Sazerac de Forge, who brought his cognac across the ocean during the French Revolution, turning a local specialty into a globally enjoyed drink. Four generations of Sazeracs would keep the cognac flowing. If nothing else, such exhibits explain how deeply rooted Sazerac is in French — and thus New Orleans — culture, and why the cocktail bearing th name would eventually be emblazoned on the façade of one of the most prestigious old buildings on Canal Street. Notably, this year Sazerac Company is releasing its first cognac in decades — Sazerac de Forge & Fils “Finest Original” Cognac — and it will be available exclusively at Sazerac House through next year. Visitors who spring for a VIP package can also visit an exclusive bar on the third floor, where veteran bartenders will teach the art of mixing certain cocktails and, perhaps more pressingly, they can enjoy those cocktails. Regardless of whether or not you go for the SAZERAC RYE American rye whiskey dates back to the late 1700s around the time distillers in the Northeast were shipping their whiskey downriver to New Orleans. By the 1820s, bars disguised as coffee houses began popping up all over New Orleans. In the mid-1800s, the Sazerac Cocktail, America’s first cocktail and now the official cocktail of the city of New Orleans, was invented at the Merchants Exchange Coffee House on Exchange Alley in the French Quarter, which later became knowns as the Sazerac Coffeehouse.The cocktail’s original recipe featured Sazerac de Forge & Fils (a cognac) and Peychaud’s Bitters. Cognac was eventually replaced with American rye, and a dash of absinthe was added. In the 1930s bartenders substituted Herbsaint for the absinthe.



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