Since wrapping production in New Orleans two years ago, and a successful run on the film festival circuit, Atlanta-based filmmakers James Martin and Jen West’s mini-documentary on the history and mystery of the sazerac cocktail is now available to view online. The 20-minute film explores the origins of the word “cocktail” as well as the sazerac’s humble beginnings in Antoine Peychaud’s French Quarter pharmacy as a Cognac and bitters concoction.
Martin and West filmed the documentary on location in New Orleans in July 2015 during beverage conference Tales of the Cocktail. The pair wrangled a crew of notable cocktail experts including bartenders Chris Hannah of Arnaud’s French 75 Bar (where the opening scenes were filmed) and Compère Lapin’s Abigail Gullo along with historians such as David Wondrich and Chris McMillian. The cast of characters in the film trace the history of the official cocktail of New Orleans with insights into the drink’s various formulas from Cognac to brandy to rye whiskey.
The film debuted in Atlanta last Spring at the Atlanta Film Festival where it won an audience choice award and was named Best Crowdfunded Project. But the highlight of the duo’s year came when “Sazerac” was tapped by the Cannes Film Festival to take part in the Emerging Filmmaker Showcase in France. "In Cannes, we were able to serve sazeracs right on the French Riviera,” Martin recalls of the experience. “It was cool to see so many people try the cocktail for the first time."
Martin and West have been showcasing “Sazerac” at festivals around the country since returning from France last May. Martin says traveling with the film has lead to "amazing opportunities to set up pop-up events allowing people to taste the sazerac” and expose them to its history through their documentary. This included debuting the film where it all began--back in New Orleans during 2016’s Tales of the Cocktail.
"One of our most exciting memories was serving sazeracs on the rooftop of The Ace Hotel during a screening in New Orleans,” Martin tells us. “It felt so great taking the film back to its roots."
The pair is currently developing The City Cocktail series which will explore drinks like the Los Angeles Zombie, Philadelphia Clover Club and the classic New York Manhattan. Stay tuned.
After all of the festival screenings and multiple awards, the filmmakers felt the time was right to bring “Sazerac” to the public at large. “It’s common to keep a film offline during the festival circuit," Martin says. "We knew this S pring would be the perfect time for folks to finally get a chance to watch the film online, and then go outside to have a couple Sazeracs.”
So, grab yourself a sazzy, sit back and relax on the porch while you watch “The New Orleans Sazerac”.