The Sidecar

by Emily R. See

In a casino bar near Lake Tahoe, I once ordered a Sidecar from an aged bartender, visibly weary of pouring vodka-Red Bulls and opening Bud Light bottles. His eyes went misty for the briefest of moments, before his hands sprung to life creating a cocktail that, no doubt, they hadn’t made in years.

Indeed the Sidecar seems to have slipped into oblivion, eliciting blank stares from bartenders barely old enough to drink, while things such as cosmopolitans and lemon drops are lapped up by women who have seen too many episodes of Sex and the City. Little do they know that the Sidecar is the likely origin of more common concoctions that combine the punch of strong liquor with the tart sweetness of citrus, the cosmo and margarita among them.

The key to a good Sidecar, or any good cocktail for that matter, is balancing the elements of strong, sweet, and sour. There are many variations, and nearly as many bars laying claim to its invention. The story usually goes that a customer arriving on his motorcycle (complete with sidecar) one cold evening asked for a drink to take the chill off. Concerned that Cognac or Cointreau (which would be good to warm one’s bones) would ruin his palate for dinner, the bartender added lemon juice to make it tart enough for an aperitif.

This recipe is from the Ritz Paris, which is a likely setting for the story. With ingredients like VSOP Cognacs and Cointreau, it’s easy to see how certain places (the Ritz included) can list unduly expensive Sidecars on their menus. You can make them more cheaply; just take care not to ruin your good Cognac with sours mix. 2 oz. fine Brandy or Cognac 1 oz. Cointreau (or triple sec) ½ oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Combine ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake well, and then strain into a 4-oz. martini glass rimmed with sugar. Garnish with a lemon twist.

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