To take the Sazerac cocktail back to its roots would be to make it with cognac as the base spirit. To really situate it here in this place, though, you could start with the spirit that has arguably a stronger claim on this city.
The recipe's architecture is a masterpiece of taste and balance, yet strong enough to withstand the pummeling of endless variations. It's hard to rival the way rye operates among the other five ingredients; not to mention Americans adore their whiskey.
But to make a Sazerac with rum sends the drink down another channel precisely away from the simple comforts of the American plain, diagonally propelled by a collective memory of how New Orleans came to be. Cuba like us has been both cursed and blessed by cane, not grain: rum's story.
Alan Walter of Loa has made a syrup of plantains; the starchy, subtle fruit is just present enough to wave and shut the door quietly, permitting the rum to make the quotable statement; I especially like it with Cana Brava 7yr, whose mellifluous notes arrive at a sinewy finish, not quite a world away from our dear rye.
Peychaud's Barrel Aged edition of that Haitian pharmacist's bitters brings a welcome pirouette of cherried fruit to the mix. We dress the glass with Herbsaint Legendre.
The palate only hears the tale taste tells but the story of a drink is the definitive preshow. By setting an iconic cocktail in a new place the tone changes for what follows: so our ideas do too.