Food & Drink

Bar Exam

Sazerac's Happy Hour Is Pretty Much Insane

A discussion of downtown's Sazerac must begin with the light fixtures. The word "fixtures" does not do justice to the lighting situation in Sazerac's soaring airspace; these are sculptures, apparently in the medium of giant pieces of fruit leather. They were installed in the Sazerac remodel of January 2008, an effort that changed the determinedly upscale-"fun!" interior to a dramatic-chic hodgepodge that's less dated by at least 10 years. Progress!

The overwrought and overthought decor bothers exactly no one at Sazerac's epic happy hour, however. Monday through Saturday from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m., the bar that swoops down one side of the room, the counter seating at the exhibition kitchen shimmering in the distance, and every table and booth under the fruit-leather fantasia are all given over to happiness. It's 185 seats of les bon temps actively roulez-ing, with beer, wine, and cocktails priced to move at $3 to $6, and more than two dozen small plates under $10. Would grilled andouille sausage make you happy? How about gulf prawns, wood-fire-roasted with chorizo? Perhaps you would like a Caesar salad with grana cheese and roasted garlic crostini, or a salad of organic lettuces, or regular or sweet-potato fries with sea salt and multiple dipping sauces. (Why choose? These last three, and three more, are $2 each.) The happy-hour menu boggles the mind while haphazardly circling the globe, encompassing local oysters, pulled-pork sliders, wood-fired pizzas (including the regrettably named "Funky Pizza of the Day"), beef tartare, feta-stuffed peppers. A liberating close-your-eyes-and-point joie de vivre is induced, and huge tables of office workers (among whom this happy hour is justly famous) overdo it jubilantly.

Furthermore, the food is actually good: The presentations are elegant, the portions aren't stingy, and the flavors surpass by far the usual tamped-down timidity of happy-hour fare. The chicken livers—a divisive food if ever there was one—wear a light cornmeal coat that is fried crispy-brown, their insides melty and silky and rich, with the haute accents of a sliver of piquillo pepper underneath and a dab of herbed aioli on top. Marshalled to change the minds of those who would hate, they come lined up with plenty of white space on a rectangular plate. Getting two orders is probably a good idea, but there's also a legion of other dishes to try.

The $6 cocktail of the day one evening last week was the Hanky Panky, which the server said was gin, sweet vermouth, and Fernet. Met with "That sounds terrible!" she maintained a diplomatic silence and gave the slightest impression of a nod. A sazerac itself costs $11, but it's an excellent rendition of a classic: warming without sharp alcohol heat, herbal but not medicinal. And in the economic bubble that is Sazerac's happy hour, not having one just doesn't make sense. recommended

Agree with this review? Disagree?
Write your own damn review.

Comments (1) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Wait? Who thought the Hanky Panky sounded terrible? If it's you, Bethany, then I'm highly disappointed. The Hanky Panky is my go to drink. My husband also made a version with rye, that is fab.
Posted by Lauren E on October 14, 2009 at 4:58 PM · Report this

Add a comment