Cocktail Hour: Sidecar

Cocktail Hour: SidecarI didn’t think I’d like the sidecar.  I don’t like cognac.  I remember stealing sips of my mom’s bottle– in a decanter that cork had fallen into– and thinking it was the most noxious thing ever.  Fast forward, oh, 20 years and in reading about the sidecar, I decided to put my prejudice aside and try it out.

The sidecar is a member of the sour family of cocktails, and dates back to the 1920s.  It originally contained a lot more ingredients, but has been since been refined into what we know of as a sidecar today.  It is, of course, named after the motorcycle sidecar.  The story goes that an American Army captain in Paris during World War I requested the drink at a cafe– and was driven to the cafe in a sidecar.  Genius.

David Embury refers to this as a daiquiri made with brandy and sweetened with Cointreau, which I get– but the brandy (or, more specifically, cognac) adds a lot of depth and warmth.  If drinks were seasons, the Daiquiri tastes like summer, but the Sidecar tastes like fall.  Due to its similarities to a daiquiri– a drink that is very approachable and drinkable, and great for a beginnar– the Sidecar is also considered a good “starter” drink for someone who is getting into classic cocktails.  I happened to order one at Mr. Pitiful’s on Friday– I was surprised, but Bob makes a good sidecar!  So Bob, this one’s for you.

Three ingredients make up the sidecar:  Cognac, cointreau and lemon juice.  I used Courvoiser VSOP (a small bottle, purchased at Kroger in Newport.  I had no idea that the small bottles were made to look like flasks.  It doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the bar!) and my usual Luxardo Triplum.  As usual, quality matters.

Cognac, like Champagne, is only considered Cognac if it comes from one of several regions of France, and is made from eaux-de-vie, a fermented fruit brandy.  In order to be considered cognac, along with the regional restrictions, it has to be aged for at least two years.  Don’t use anything below a VSOP– it’s been stored for at least four years in a cask.  I’ve talked to bartenders who refer to anything below VSOP as “lighter fluid”, so take that as you will.  VSOP isn’t hard to find and won’t break the bank.   If it was good enough for Napoleon…

The proportions:

2 oz cognac

1 oz Cointreau or other high quality Triple Sec

3/4 oz lemon juice

Mix in a shaker with ice, and pour into a sugar-rimmed cocktail glass.

In order to get a pretty rim, instead of just placing the lemon-juice rimmed glass top-down in a plate of sugar, I angle it slightly and spin the glass around– it makes for a much more even sugar rim.  If you think the drink is sweet enough, omit the rim.

Any recommendations for a good cognac?  I’ve definitely gotten past my early contempt– a Sidecar is just too delicious!



6 thoughts on “Cocktail Hour: Sidecar”

  • Love the Sidecar. I’m not a huge cognac fan either, but several of the cocktails I’ve made with it so far I’ve been impressed with. Sidecar was one of them.
    .-= Mark´s last blog ..Sazerac =-.

  • I like that version of the origin of the Sidecar better than the one I had heard. I knew a man when I lived in Chicago who had returned to bartending in his 80s (!) after having left the profession at the start of World War II. He started tending bar in 1928 in NYC speakeasies before moving to Chicago in the mid-30s after Prohibition ended, and his favorite drink to make was a Sidecar. His story of it was WAY less romantic: the Sidecar was so named because it was meant to be a companion drink, especially in the morning with a cup of coffee.

    We had coffee and a Sidecar as a brunch drink combo at Lavomatic. It is a great way to start your day….
    .-= Burke Morton´s last blog ..Identity Crisis: Marselan =-.

  • I love the Sidecar, it’s one of the true cocktail classics. The Sidecar evolved from a great 19th century cocktail called the Brandy Crusta, BTW. The only problem with the sidecar is trying find a bartender who can make a good one. You will usually be served something overly sweet made with chemical laden bar lemon, cheap triple sec and well brandy. Yuck. Mortons (especially if it’s made by Ian), Rookwood and Tonic all make great Sidecars.

    You should try a couple of classics that are in the same cocktail family Julie, the aforementioned Brandy Crusta and the French 75 are two that are well worth trying. They are great drinks and true classics in their own right.

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