Peychaud's Bitters: A New Orleans Take on Aromatic Bitters

Peychaud's Bitters: A New Orleans Take on Aromatic Bitters

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Roger Kamholz
Nov 25, 2014
(Image credit: Roger Kamholz)

A couple of weeks back, when in the course of our monthlong study of aromatic bitters we covered some brands to fit your budget, one well-known bottle was perhaps noticeably absent from the mix: the storied New Orleans original, Peychaud's Bitters.

Why Peychaud's Is Unique

The omission was intentional. Yes, Peychaud's belongs to the broader category of aromatic bitters — of which Angostura is a member, too. Yes, it's widely and reliably available and budget-friendly (Peychaud's is owned by the whiskey giant Sazerac Company).

But between its unique flavor profile and the specific drink recipes it has long been associated with, I just always think of Peychaud's as belonging to a class unto itself. In other words, it's worthy of a shout-out all its own.

The Taste of Peychaud's

I think of aromatic bitters as having a sharp, woodsy flavor profile rooted in...well...roots! Bitter roots and herbs and pungent spices, to be more inclusive. Peychaud's, in contrast, brings to mind licorice, saffron, citrus, peel, and caramel. It's lighter and fruitier and less bitter than the profile of other aromatic bitters.

So while it may be part of that bigger group — and it says as much on the bottle — I don't consider Peychaud's an interchangeable substitute for Angostura bitters when a drink recipe calls for the latter — nor vice versa. Basically, there are times when only Peychaud's will do.

Peychaud's History

Antoine Amedie (or Amédée?) Peychaud, a New Orleans apothecary owner and the son of a Haitian immigrant, is credited with popularizing his family's recipe for bitters during the early 19th century. (That a pharmacist would be hawking bitters back then shouldn't come as a surprise; these products were often touted as possessing medicinal properties.) In the late 1830s, Peychaud began mixing his family's eponymous tonic into brandy toddies for friends. His concoction was one of the earliest known "cocktails" in the term's original sense — namely a combination of spirit, bitters, sugar, and water.

Peychaud's & The Sazerac

The Sazerac, the drink most associated with Peychaud's bitters, was likewise born in New Orleans and was an homage to Antoine's brandy toddy. It became the signature cocktail at the Sazerac Coffee House, a devleopment that helped to cement its historic name. Its initial build called for French brandy, Peychaud's bitters, sugar, absinthe, and water.

Later iterations of the recipe swap rye whiskey for the brandy, making the drink an even more thoroughly American creation.

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