The Sidecar is a classic cocktail which, though many bartenders know, rarely seems to be ordered. This is mainly because it is often poorly made, whether with mediocre ingredients, the use of a commercial sour mix, or just an inappropriate ratio of ingredients. Just like last week's post on the Margarita, this week's libation emphasizes the importance of a correct ratio of ingredients and the quality of those ingredients as fundamental to an enjoyable cocktail. When properly made, the Sidecar is a superbly well balanced cocktail, perfect as an early evening aperitif.
Although the exact history of the cocktail is unclear, it appears that the Sidecar, a variation on the older Brandy Daisy, was first created in Paris around the end of World War I (although other references suggest it was invented in London). The story goes that an old Army officer would frequent a local bar and always arrive via a motorcycle sidecar. He requested a cocktail that would warm him up after his chilling journey. The bartender was caught in a quandary since brandy, a traditional drink to remove a chill, was usually considered an after dinner drink. The result was a careful mixture of Cognac, Cointreau, and lemon juice. This creation combined the warming qualities of the brandy with sufficient tartness of the lemon to make it appropriate as a pre-dinner cocktail. The first appearance in print of the Sidecar was in 1922, in both Harry MacElhone's "Harry's ABC of Mixing Cocktails" and Robert Vermeire's "Cocktails and How to Mix Them".
To make a perfect Sidecar fill a clean cocktail shaker with cracked ice, add two measures of good Cognac (Armagnac may also be used), one measure of Cointreau and half a measure of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Again I emphasize the importance of using good quality ingredients. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel.
Some people like to make their Sidecars with a sugar lip on the rim of the glass. Although this is not an original feature of the drink, it is generally acceptable. To do this, run a piece of lemon around the rim of the glass and then dip the inverted glass into a saucer or dish of granulated sugar. Make sure to let the glass stand for an hour or so to let the sugar set. Enjoy! - RJH.