Sazerak: the secrets of New Orleans in Bogotá

The very mention of the cocktail sazerac refers to the mysterious New Orleans. This cocktail classic was born there, as a result of the combination of cultures, which enriched the world-famous gastronomy of the American city. This flagship cocktail was born in one of his apothecaries —the Pharmacie Peychaud—, at first it had French cognac as an ingredient and now its recipe uses the famous and local rye or rye whiskey, but always with the secret recipe bitters created by the pharmacy’s founder in the 19th century.

Felipe Giraldo, Colombian chef.

The chef Philip Giraldo and its partners chose the name of this cocktail, with a differentiating k at the end, for the restaurant in which they seek to recreate the flavor of New Orleans in Bogotá. This can be seen in the cocktail, served in a crystal glass in the shape of a skull, and in the spicy flavors of the menu that combines the cajun and the Creole with the creativity of the chef.

From the American city are the jambalayas, the gumbo and the étouffée crayfish, better known as crawfish, a leading ingredient in many of its typical dishes.

This and the use of spices dazzled Giraldo – known in Bogotá for his work at the head of Bicono – when he visited New Orleans in order to get inspiration for the menu that he offers today in the Quinta Camacho mansion where Sazerak is located. The house gave rise to the idea, because his partner David Simpson, who lived for many years in Louisiana, found in the place a common “vibe” with the atmosphere of New Orleans.

“We tried to do something that was connected to what was happening there —says Giraldo—. But our proposal is a reinterpretation. So the first task was to travel to see what the kitchen was like Cajun-Creole. Everything in the city is fascinating, not just the food, but the music and the mystery and its cultural heritage. It was a French colony that later became Spanish and has a lot of history. It is also in a privileged geographical point, that of the Mississippi basin and the Caribbean Sea. We wanted to capture its essence and bring it, but make small modifications in flavors with our personal perspective”.

The first thing Giraldo noticed was that the food was very spicy and salty, with strong flavors, perhaps too much for the Colombian public. His job was to adapt it into Sazerak.

The menu retains some classics, always with a twist: “We have the BBQ Shrimp, the rillonsthe jambalaya and the gumbo, but we also made dishes experimenting with its flavors. We use techniques learned there to develop new recipes, like our ribs or the Caribbean-inspired fish curry we make. There is a lot of Caribbean culture, especially from the Antilles, where the theme of voodoo, magic and vampires, typical of New Orleans, began to develop.

For this reason, the presentation of the flagship cocktail, which has, in addition to the rye and Peychaud’s bitters, some absinthe (absinthe liqueur).

Cajun vs. curry

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Louisiana Style BBQ Shrimps, one of Sazerak’s most successful entries.

The chef believes that it is not difficult to bring this cuisine to Bogotá because the ingredients are similar. “Perhaps the most difficult thing is to match the crawfish, that freshwater shrimp known as crayfish so representative there —he explains—. In Bogotá we replace it with tiger shrimp. But in any case, I was left with a thorn, because the crawfish it gives a unique flavor”.

Beyond the crawfish, the cook reiterates that the ingredients are not strange. “They make a lot of use of seafood because they are in a privileged position,” he describes. They have sea fish, river fish and migratory fish, which is why our menu is 70 percent seafood. And when it comes to spices, Cajun is a mix, pretend curry”.

The key is to establish the difference. “The curry It is a mixture of spices that has turmeric as its common thread —he explains—. Cajun is a curry, but its common thread is cayenne pepper. Obviously, very spicy, but we do the twist, with a little more smoked paprika.

The holy trinity of the kitchen

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New Orleans-style fish curry with coconut rice from Sazerak Restaurant.

The first thing at the restaurant table is to get acquainted with those spices. You can see them from the start, in the delicious butter that accompanies the bread at Sazerak, made with Cajun oil, which gives it a smoky, half-herbaceous touch.

“And there is the holy trinity, the holly trinity —adds the chef—, a mixture that they borrowed from the French. In France they have a classic mixture of ingredients, the mirepoix, a mixture of carrot, onion and celery. It is what they use to start all the sauces, all the broths, everything that is made has mirepoix. But in New Orleans they changed the white onion for purple, left the celery and changed the carrot for green bell pepper. Green bell pepper, red onion and celery is the holly trinity”.

Whoever wants to try this trinity can order the plate of traditional sausages. Ideal as an appetizer, this combines the famous hot dog andouille (the most typical, spicy) and the boudin blanc, a type of blood sausage. Each one brings their sauce, one is a kind of chimichurri from holly trinity. The combination of flavors is impressive. They are accompanied by crispy Creole potatoes, as a local touch.

Another great entry on the menu is BBQ Shrimps. It’s not the sauce bbq that any diner outside of Louisiana would have in mind. East bbq it does not resemble the one in common use even in color. It is a butter mounted with Worcestershire sauce. “For them that is BBQ”, emphasizes the chef, who at the time went through the surprise that today he sees reflected in many of his diners who try that recipe in his restaurant for the first time. The shrimp arrive bathed in abundant sauce, so much so that the chef recommends eating them with a spoon. And people get excited and ask for bread to spread it. It is one of his star preparations.

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The cozy decoration of Sazerak, in Bogotá.

Among the forts there is plenty to choose from. Cajun butter chicken is one of the chef’s favorites. There are dishes that are less attached to tradition, such as “pasta in purgatory”, with a ragout of roast beef and sausage andouille which gives it smoky notes. “This does not qualify as Cajun cuisine, but it has its ingredients,” Giraldo emphasizes.

Nor should we lose sight of the sea and river dishes. There is a fish curry that for the Colombian diner would be a very different vision of what he has in mind when eating fish in sauce and rice with coconut. Of course, the curry is not the same either: the mixture of Cajun spices and the Caribbean flavor are there, in this new and delicious proposal for Bogotans.

Sazerak has full reservations at night. The public enjoys its cocktails and night bar atmosphere, but the chef points out that it is a restaurant whose cuisine is also worth taking advantage of at lunchtime, where —if you want something quick— you can order the po’boys, which are New Orleans sandwiches. Giraldo is about to release new dishes, so it will always be time to try this wonderful cuisine, in one of the gastronomic areas of Bogotá.

LILIANA MARTINEZ POLO
CULTURE WRITING}
@Lilangmartin

Sazerak: the secrets of New Orleans in Bogotá