• Weekly Cocktail #31: The Sidecar

    The Sidecar Cocktail.

    There are few more “classic” cocktails than the Sidecar. A simple, but delicious, combination of brandy, Cointreau and lemon juice, the Sidecar is a very easy cocktail to enjoy. Everything else about the drink, however, is not so simple.

    As is often the case with “classic” cocktails, the history, ingredients and proportions are all hard to pin down. The Sidecar was “probably” invented after World War I in “either” the Ritz Hotel in Paris or the Bucks Club in London and “likely” named after the sidecar on a motorcycle. That clears up everything.

    And when we get to the proportions of the ingredients of the Sidecar, the picture doesn’t come into focus either. Some recipes suggest equal proportions of the brandy, Cointreau and lemon, some go very heavy on brandy and light on lemon, and some follow a 2:1:1 formula. Cocktail geeks writers spend a lot of time on this stuff (a quick Google search will give you more on the subject than you will ever need), but they do get the benefit of “testing” the recipes. We suggest a starting point of 2 ounces of brandy to 3/4 ounces each Cointreau and lemon juice.

    While there is less confusion about the base ingredients of the Sidecar, there is room for experimentation. Brandies vary widely, but most recipes suggest a VS or better Cognac or Armagnac (we like Armagnac). But even among brands, the flavors will vary and may require changing the recipe slightly for your tastes. You can also experiment with other triple secs or Curaçao to replace the Cointreau. We like Pierre Ferrand for a slightly drier flavor. But the Cointreau does work very well. And you may, or may not, want to add sugar to the rim of the glass. We like the drink either way, but the sugar rim is pretty and you can do it ahead of time and impress your guests.

    As for the flavor of the Sidecar, the brandy, sweet orange and lemon flavors all blend into a light citrus sip with just enough sweetness to keep you coming back. You get all the flavor of the brandy, but without any rough edges. The Sidecar is an easy drink to enjoy, even if you don’t often drink brandy. The only problem with the Sidecar is that they are almost too easy to drink and you could get into a little trouble after a few. That is something all the historians seem to agree on.

    The Sidecar:

    Ingredients:

    • 2 oz. good Cognac or Armagnac
    • 3/4 oz. Cointreau (substitute quality triple sec or Curaçao)
    • 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
    • Sugar, for rimming glass (optional)

    Assemble:

    1. Run a wedge of lemon around the edge of the glass and then rotate the edge of the glass in the sugar. Shake off any excess and let dry for a few minutes.
    2. Meanwhile, combine all the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into the sugar-rimmed glass (if using). Serve.
  • Cocktail DIY (And Bonus Cocktails): Pineapple And Raspberry Syrups

    Pineapple and raspberry syrups.

    One of the main things we enjoy about cocktails is how many ways we get inspiration to try new drinks. This week, Mixology Monday came back to life with an “Equal Parts” theme and we submitted a fun (and a little goofy) cocktail that we enjoyed, the Long Island Planters Punch. But what makes Mixology Monday really fun is trying other people’s creations. And now we have over 25 drinks to try (click here to see the lineup, very cool). One of our favorites, so far, is Shake, Strain and Sip’s Undiscovered Country a Corpse Reviver variant using pisco and Swedish Punch (it was a good excuse to finally buy some pisco). Another favorite is Chemistry of the Cocktail’s Shrunken Skull, a tiki drink with grenadine, but also works with raspberry syrup. Hmm….so now we have some pisco and a desire to make raspberry syrup. Anything else we can do?  Well, yes- since we had pisco, we had to make pineapple syrup to mix up some Pisco Punch, a true classic. (Like we said, “inspiration”, not necessarily “organized thinking”).

    Pisco Punch.

    Mountain Clover Cocktail.

    Unfamiliar with pisco and Pisco Punch? Pisco is brandy from Chile and Peru using local grapes from their wine industry. It is strong, a bit spicy and musky with hints or grappa (at least to our tastes). It is unique stuff and perhaps tough on its own, but very good in cocktails. And the most famous is the Pisco Punch, a simple combo of pisco, lemon juice and pineapple syrup. Cocktail historians have beaten the history of this drink to death (and beyond), but suffice it to say that in later 19th-Century San Francisco if you were blotto worse-for-wear, Pisco Punch had something to do with it. (Paul Clarke has a good, brief history piece here.) And there is a good reason the Pisco Punch was so popular, it’s really good. The musky notes of the pisco match with the sugar and funk of the pineapple and the lemon adds brightness and acidity. Pisco Punch is true cocktail alchemy, and it’s way-too-easy to throw these back…and a good reason to make pineapple syrup. And once you have pineapple syrup it works in other brandy drinks like the Brandy Fix or as a good substitute for simple syrup in Tiki drinks.

    As for the Raspberry syrup, it used to be a very popular cocktail sweetener, particularly before Prohibition. Used in dozens of drinks like the Clover Club, the Pink Lady and the Davis Cocktail, raspberry syrup adds great color and bright sweetness that’s lighter in flavor than grenadine. But, for whatever reason, grenadine took the place of raspberry syrup in many recipes during the later half of the 20th century. Happily, the cocktail renaissance brought raspberry syrup back from obscurity and there are plenty of DIY recipes, or you can buy it in stores. We decided to make our own, it’s easy and we still have raspberries. And after playing around with some classics, we made a Clover Club variant called the Mountain Clover with dry gin, lime juice, raspberry syrup and St. Germain. The light, bright sweetness of the raspberry syrup plays well with the gin and lime and makes for a very balanced sip. It looks like a grenadine-based cocktail, but is something very different. Worth a try.

    Making both these syrups is very easy. Both use fruit, sugar and water. The pineapple syrup uses a “cold” method and the raspberry a “hot” method, but the process is basically the same. Cut or mash-up the fruit, cover with a simple syrup, put it in a jar, let it sit a day or two, strain out the fruit (mash in a bit more of the juice) and bottle the syrup. (And keep the left over pineapple pieces to put on ice cream or toast, good stuff). Top with a bit of vodka or Everclear to extend the life of the syrup, if you like. Store in a tightly lidded jar in the fridge. And then prepare to make awesome cocktails.

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