rye whiskey, social hour, tom macy, cocktail, classic cocktail

Sidecar

Recipe

 

 

Combine all ingredients in a shaker, fill with ice.  Shake for 8-10 seconds and strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass that has a thick half rim of sugar (optional, but recommended).  Garnish with an expressed orange peel.

If you make a Sidecar, let me see!  

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Overview

The Sidecar is one of those drinks that has a name which many are familiar with, but when it comes to what actually goes in it, awareness is spotty at best (the Daiquiri and Mai Tai are two others in that camp).  A Sidecar is basically a Margarita (or White Lady) with Cognac as a base.   The addition of Cognac - an elegant barrel-aged brandy - makes it a rare drink that is bright and refreshing as well as strong and spirit forward.   Given that, it should come as no surprise when I say it’s in my pantheon of all-time favorites.  

 

There have been conflicting Sidecar recipes over time, more on that below, this is the one I prefer.  It’s on the tart side, but I think that's best.  Sidecars should have an edge. More sugar makes it go down perilously easily.  I think the sugar rim is a good compromise.     

Commentary

Most Cognacs Will Do

I’ve found that the brand of Cognac you use in a Sidecar doesn’t make a huge difference, they’re all pretty darn good.  Because Cointreau is so assertive it’s not necessary to use one that’s extremely high end. A solid VS or VSOP will do just fine.  If you can find one that’s a bit higher proof, like Pierre Ferrand 1840, even better. Those long-aged XOs may be as exquisite on their own, but in cocktails can be so round and soft that they fade into the background.

Cointreau

As I often note with recipes that call for Cointreau, any high quality orange

liqueur can be used.  However, for the Sidecar, Cointreau is the traditional choice, some say you can't make a proper one without.  I think that's going a bit far, but if there were ever a time to use it specifically, I think it's this one.

Recipe Dispute: French School vs English School

The first Sidecar recipes in the early 1920’s, more on that below, list all the ingredients at equal parts.  A little under a decade later a recipe, a appeared "The Savoy Cocktail Book" in 1930 that was composed more like a traditional sour, with a larger portion of Cognac and smaller amounts of Cointreau and lemon juice.  These contrasting are takes are sometimes known as the “French school” and "English School” of Sidecar recipes.  Most recipes today use the Elnglish school, which I agree with, and you see reflected in my recipe.  While the French school may be older, I think English school makes a better drink.

The Sidecar's Story

The Sidecar appears to be a descendent - and streamlined version - of the more ornate Brandy Crusta, which is brandy with a few dashes of cointreau, maraschino and lemon juice served in a wine glass with a sugared rum.  The Brandy Crusta emerged in the mid-19th century, and while it has been far eclipsed by its progeny, it more than holds it’s own. 

Based on the cocktail books the Sidecar first appears in - Harry MacElhone's "Harry's ABC of Mixing Cocktails" and Robert Vermeire's "Cocktails and How to Mix Them" (both using the French school recipe) - the Sidecar was created in the early 1920s in either France or London.  Well, it was Europe anyway.  It’s ingredients - French brandy and French orange liqueur - are a prime example of the state of cocktails at this point in time.  Up until 1919 or, America was in driver's seat of cocktail culture, but once prohibition hit serious bartending in the U.S. came a halt (though the drinking certainly didn’t), and European bartenders picked up the slack.   Many regard the the Sidecar as one of, if not the, most illustrious cocktail to have come out of prohibition.

 

The exact origins of the Sidecar are foggy.  The Ritz Hotel in Paris asserts ownership, some credit Pat MacGarry of the Buck’s Club in London, another story involves an American Army captain and his motorcycle.  At least, most can agree that the name is a reference to that small passenger attachment to a motorcycle (you know, what Indiana Jones’ dad rides in during the motorcycle chase in Last Crusade).  Good enough for me.

Variations

The Sidecar has a cluster of wonderful variants to it's name.  These three are my favorites.

 

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tom@socialhourcocktails.com Brooklyn, NY

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