The grand opening of the Sazerac House at 101 Magazine (at Canal) took place Wednesday, October 2nd. This estimated $50 million project began as a six story vacant building adjacent to the Sheraton Hotel on Canal. The 48,000 square foot building dates from the 1860s but has been unoccupied for 30 years. It is now an interactive museum, event space and production facility for whiskey and bitters.
When entering the museum’s core center, a three story tower with illuminated liquor bottles is the shining spectacle that greets you. The Sazerac Company originated in France in the 1600s and in 1796, its cognac was being exported to New Orleans at the Sazerac Coffee House just down the street from this site.
In 1830, Dr. Antoine Peychaud emigrated from Haiti and formulated what would become an essential ingredient in the Sazerac cocktail, Peychaud’s Bitters. Originally a medicinal product, the bitters were being used together with other liquors and spirits.
In 1948 the Goldring family acquired the company and it became the country’s largest spirits producer and one of the largest of such companies in the world with over 400 brands of spirits. Local businessman, Bill Goldring, operates the Sazerac Company from New Orleans where the top three floors of the new building will house the corporate offices.
There are self-guided tours and exhibits throughout the first three floors. On the ground floor, facing Canal Street, there is a 500 gallon micro-distillery for Sazerac rye whiskey. I’m sure this will draw crowds in off the street to take a better look at this unusual addition to the window displays on Canal Street!
In the exhibit about bitters, there are small drawers to open and sniff the various dried herbs, barks, botanicals, and roots used in bitters. In the Sophisticated Spirits exhibit, virtual bartenders will explain their tips and techniques used in making various cocktails: when to use an atomizer, why certain cocktails are served on the rocks or others served “up” and strained from a shaker before pouring. Just click a button and select a cocktail for a professional explanation of its making and contents.
Architecturally, the building has lots of interior details. The railings on the central staircase have a patterned “S” to signify the Sazerac logo and there are outlines of anise blossoms representing a key ingredient in bitters.
One exhibit has a section of a white oak tree to emphasize the importance of barrel aging whisky.
As general manager, Miguel Solorzano states, “This is a facility where visitors can explore and experience the traditions and culture of spirits.”
I will hope that some of the planned future events include venues for musicians and guests to enjoy the many attributes of the facility.
Even if you don’t partake in many cocktails, you will appreciate the architecture, the attention to detail, the interactive displays, and the historic significance of the featured products.
It is a beautiful renovation and surely one worth a visit on your next trip to the French Quarter.