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The Sidecar


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#1 kvltrede

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Posted 22 November 2004 - 03:42 PM

In this "house brands" thread JAZ wrote:

It occurs to me that the one thing I haven't been keeping in stock for a while is brandy. I had a sidecar the other day and remembered how much I like them, so maybe it's time to pick that up. Any recommendations?

There was plenty of useful info in the resulting thread but not much in the way of answering Janet's question. Brandy and cognac were mentioned only in passing by some posters and no one recommended a brandy or cognac specifically for use in a Sidecar. So, how about it? Also, is Cointreau a must?

I mixed up a Sidecar with El Presidente brandy, Hiram Walker orange curacao and lemon juice a week or so ago and enjoyed it. The amounts of each that I used needs some tweaking but it wasn't bad for a first try. I imagine Cointreau and a better brandy or cognac could only improve the drink. However, I wonder if there's an unwritten rule as to just how fine a brandy or cognac should be used in a Sidecar or other cocktails or mixed drinks calling for them. I'll admit that I'm a little bit of a snob when it comes to using finer (and pricier) hooch in mixed drinks (usually) or cocktails (depends) but mostly I'm just cheap. My scotch & coke-drinking friends get MacCallans while my scotch-drinking friends get Knockando, for example.

As I know next to nothing about cognac and brandy I have no standard of reference. Is there a brandy equivalent of Bacardi or Beefeaters? The El Presidente seemed nice enough. Is there a cognac that's good on it's own but not "too good" to be put in a cocktail?

Thanks.

Kurt
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#2 KatieLoeb

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Posted 22 November 2004 - 04:09 PM

The E&J (Gallo) Brandy is perfectly adequate for mixing into a sidecar and has a very "woody" barrel taste that mimics better Cognacs quite well. I think the Cointreau is necessary myself - it's the flavor of Brandy + Cointreau (with the lemon juice of course) that makes it a sidecar IMO.

Try a Calvados sidecar sometime. Those are really yummy! :wub:

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#3 little ms foodie

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Posted 22 November 2004 - 04:30 PM

We use Metaxa brandy in our sidecars. And I like mine with orange juice vs. lemon. Does that still make it a sidecar??

#4 kvltrede

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Posted 22 November 2004 - 05:06 PM

Thanks, Katie!

I assume you mean the "regular" E&J but I see that my second-favorite local shop has an E&J "VSOP" for only a little more cash. Would the "VSOP" be worth the extra buck? How about the "XO" for only a few more dollars? At $9, $10 and $18 for 750ml I'd probably mix any of these with Kool-Aid if asked. They all fit nicely in my booze budget even if I upgrade my triple sec to Cointreau.

If you have a Calvados recommendation I'd appreciate that too.

Thanks again.

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#5 KatieLoeb

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Posted 22 November 2004 - 05:46 PM

Thanks, Katie!

I assume you mean the "regular" E&J but I see that my second-favorite local shop has an E&J "VSOP" for only a little more cash.  Would the "VSOP" be worth the extra buck?  How about the "XO" for only a few more dollars?  At $9, $10 and $18 for 750ml I'd probably mix any of these with Kool-Aid if asked.  They all fit nicely in my booze budget even if I upgrade my triple sec to Cointreau.

If you have a Calvados recommendation I'd appreciate that too.

Thanks again.

Kurt

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If it's only a buck or two, I'd say definitely go for the upgrade. But the regular "entry-level" stuff is just fine too. The upgrade to the Cointreau is crucial. Once you've tried one that way you'll see what I mean.

For Calvados, we use the Couer de Lion at Rouge for our Calvados Sidecars. It's about $25 in PA for a 750ml. Undoubtedly less wherever you live. :rolleyes: The only other Calvados I have any extensive experience with is the Pere Magliore which is about $5 more. We used to serve that by itself and used the Couer de Lion for mixing. Boulard also makes an under-$30 Calvados that I'm certain would be fine for sidecars.

Let me know how the experimenting goes! Have fun! :smile:

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#6 thebartrainer

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Posted 23 November 2004 - 08:28 AM

Grand Marnier has a Cognac base which (on paper at least) would link in nicely with the brandy of choice.

We also sugar rim our glasses which gives an extra texture and tingle to the end product

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#7 mjr_inthegardens

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Posted 23 November 2004 - 02:43 PM

While you guys are on the subject could you diagram drink proportions for a sidecar "liker" but novice drinksmith who wants to become a sidecar "lover"?

cheers

-mjr
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#8 slkinsey

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Posted 23 November 2004 - 02:44 PM

Kurt, the "d'Auge" part means "from Auge." It's part of the regulation for calvados d'appellation contrôlée. A Calvados so named must be distilled form apples grown in the orchards of the Pays d'Auge.

While you guys are on the subject could you diagram drink proportions for a sidecar "liker" but novice drinksmith who wants to become a sidecar "lover"?

Classic sidecar:

1.5 oz : cognac or cognac-like brandy
1.0 oz : Cointreau
0.5 oz : fresh lemon juice
lemon twist for garnish

Take a lemon wedge, notch a slice into the middle and use it to moisten the rim of a chilled cocktail glass. Frost the moistened outer rim of the glass with superfine sugar.

Shake ingredients together with cracked ice and strain into prepared cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

Some recipes might call for only a half-ounce of Cointreau, and I've even seen one that called for equal parts of all three ingredients. I think the one I posted above is a good one to start with. Here is Julie Reiner's sidecar recipe. It calls for 3/4 ounce lemon juice and GranGala instead of Cointreau.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#9 Alex

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Posted 23 November 2004 - 03:46 PM

MatthewB's sidecar, from last year's Heartland Gathering thread:

1.5 ounces decent cognac (I like DeLuze VS. It's really Remy under a secondary label!)

.75 ounce Cointreau (or triple sec)

.75 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Shake vigorously until your hands are cold.

Strain into a chilled stemmed cocktail glass that's been *half* rimmed with fine sugar. (Allows the drinker to choose sugar/no sugar rim or to move back & forth between the two.)

Garnish with a lemon twist.

Serve.
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#10 Splificator

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Posted 23 November 2004 - 08:15 PM

Originally (as in, the 1920s), there were two kinds of Sidecar: the French formula, which called for equal parts cognac, lemon juice and Cointreau, and the English version, which called for two parts cognac to one part each of lemon juice and Cointreau--this version, naturally, having more booze in it. I swear by the English formula, and make mine like Alex's, except bigger: 2 oz cognac (it should, alas, be a VSOP to bring out the true seductiveness of the drink--anything else tends to be a little too light, although Spanish brandy works, too), 1 oz Cointreau and 1 oz lemon.

I gotta go make one now.
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#11 kvltrede

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Posted 30 November 2004 - 05:28 PM

Okay, the early returns are in. I mixed up two Sidecars last week with E & J VSOP brandy. Both were 2 : 1 : 1. The first included the Hiram Walker orange curacao I had on hand. I subbed Gran Gala in the second. Knowing that both liqueurs are quite sweet I didn't bother to sugar the rim of the glass.

Both were very tasty. The first was more interesting than the second but my initial reaction was that I liked the second one more. As the second was sweeter and more of a "one note" cocktail I find this to be somewhat odd considering I usually prefer "complex" to "simple" or "sweet". Hmmm. Further testing is a must. :blink:

No Calvados or Cointreau yet. I'll report back when I've had a chance to try those out.

Kurt
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#12 herbacidal

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Posted 01 December 2004 - 12:38 PM

If it's only a buck or two, I'd say definitely go for the upgrade.  But the regular "entry-level" stuff is just fine too.  The upgrade to the Cointreau is crucial.  Once you've tried one that way you'll see what I mean.

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Me wonders if Triple Sec would be an acceptable in-between. I know not how it would compare in price and taste in a Sidecar.
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#13 slkinsey

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Posted 01 December 2004 - 12:58 PM

If it's only a buck or two, I'd say definitely go for the upgrade.  But the regular "entry-level" stuff is just fine too.  The upgrade to the Cointreau is crucial.  Once you've tried one that way you'll see what I mean.

Me wonders if Triple Sec would be an acceptable in-between. I know not how it would compare in price and taste in a Sidecar.

IMO, if you're talking about an elemental and uncomplicated drink like the Sidecar, the quality of the ingredients makes a huge difference.

Cointreau is the original triple sec, of course. In fact, the name "triple sec" comes from the fact that the Cointreau bottle used to say "triple sec" on the front and copycat companies put the name on their bottles too (see an old bottle of Cointreau here). So, we're really talking about the difference between using a really good triple sec and not-so-good triple sec. In my opinion, there are some recipes where one can get away with using a good quality "regular" triple sec like Marie Brizzard. But for the simple classics like the Sidecar, only a top-level triple sec will do. This means Cointreau or, almost as good but a lot less expensive, GranGala. Anything less will be a noticable drop off, IMO.
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#14 alphaiii

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Posted 01 December 2004 - 03:37 PM

IMO, if you're talking about an elemental and uncomplicated drink like the Sidecar, the quality of the ingredients makes a huge difference.

Cointreau is the original triple sec, of course.  In fact, the name "triple sec" comes from the fact that the Cointreau bottle used to say "triple sec" on the front and copycat companies put the name on their bottles too (see an old bottle of Cointreau here).  So, we're really talking about the difference between using a really good triple sec and not-so-good triple sec.  In my opinion, there are some recipes where one can get away with using a good quality "regular" triple sec like Marie Brizzard.  But for the simple classics like the Sidecar, only a top-level triple sec will do.  This means Cointreau or, almost as good but a lot less expensive, GranGala.  Anything less will be a noticable drop off, IMO.

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I'm just curious why you would say GranGala would do and not Marie Brizzard Triple Sec. Many people have commented that the Marie B is very close to Cointreau. As far as GranGala, it's a Grand Marnier imitation and not a triple sec, so if we're talking quality ingredients, why not suggest Grand Marnier? More importantly, if a sidecar calls for Cointreau, wouldn't using GranGala or Grand Marnier really change the nature of the drink?

I've never had a sidecar so I'm not speaking from my experiences here. I was just curious.

I know E&J was recommended as good budget brandy, but what about Paul Masson? I have a friend who likes the VS but I've never been a brandy drinker so when I tried it I had nothing to compare it too. There is also a VSOP which is just slightly more expensive than the E&J VSOP.

Edited by alphaiii, 01 December 2004 - 03:39 PM.


#15 slkinsey

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Posted 01 December 2004 - 05:22 PM

I'm just curious why you would say GranGala would do and not Marie Brizzard Triple Sec.  Many people have commented that the Marie B is very close to Cointreau.  As far as GranGala, it's a Grand Marnier imitation and not a triple sec, so if we're talking quality ingredients, why not suggest Grand Marnier?  More importantly, if a sidecar calls for Cointreau, wouldn't using GranGala or Grand Marnier really change the nature of the drink?

I've never had a sidecar so I'm not speaking from my experiences here.  I was just curious.

D'oh! You're right, alphaiii. I was thinking of Van Gogh Triple Sec "Superieur." Marie Brizzard is fine, I think, for many cocktails that call for Cointreau. But I don't think it's right for cocktails like the Sidecar where the quality of the triple sec is really apparent, and the Sidecar is one such drink IMO. Similar things might be said of certain brands of gin, which work great for most cocktails but are not preferred for martinis.
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#16 alphaiii

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Posted 01 December 2004 - 11:13 PM

D'oh!  You're right, alphaiii.  I was thinking of Van Gogh Triple Sec "Superieur."  Marie Brizzard is fine, I think, for many cocktails that call for Cointreau.  But I don't think it's right for cocktails like the Sidecar where the quality of the triple sec is really apparent, and the Sidecar is one such drink IMO.  Similar things might be said of certain brands of gin, which work great for most cocktails but are not preferred for martinis.

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Yeah I see what you're saying. I've heard the Van Gogh triple sec is really good, but unfortunately for me it's not available in PA. So it's either Cointreau or Marie B.

#17 Rien

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Posted 08 December 2004 - 12:19 PM

More importantly, if a sidecar calls for Cointreau, wouldn't using GranGala or Grand Marnier really change the nature of the drink?


It definitely does change the nature of the drink. However, it's still a nice drink. I've passed Gran Gala "sidecars" off on some "experienced" drinkers and they've immediately noticed the difference but ackowledged it as a nice alteration ... though I'm sure it won't replace a true Sidecar in most people's pantheon of great cocktails.

rien

#18 kvltrede

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Posted 01 February 2005 - 04:52 PM

Finally did the Cointreau vs. Marie Brizard Sidecar taste-off last weekend. While our test was barely scientific--one 2:1:1 Sidecar of each head-to-head--each taster felt the Cointreau Sidecars were noticably but not significantly better than the MB Sidecars. Call us no-palate hicks or call me cheap but I doubt I'll be splurging on Cointreau any time soon.

Then again, now that I'm thinking about it, maybe next time we'll go head-to-head with 3:2:1 Sidecars... Hmmm. Maybe the lesser amount of lemon juice will better showcase the difference between Cointreau and MB.

A sidenote: the best surprise of the evening was the Pegu Club. Using Mr. Wondrich's recipe (below) it was the favorite drink of the night. The drink list included the two Sidecars (both very well liked) and an Aviation that needed some tweaking but the Pegu Club won the evening on points in a close contest with the Cointreau Sidecar.

Kurt


Pegu Club
2 oz London dry gin
3/4 oz orange curaçao (or Grand Marnier)
3/4 oz lime juice
dash Angostura bitters
dash orange bitters

Shake well with cracked ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass.
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#19 slkinsey

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Posted 08 February 2005 - 05:48 PM

The folks at Bullfrog & Baum sent around an interesting Sidecar-related release about some variations their clients are doing:

BLT Steak pays homage to local transportation with the 6 Train Side Car, an intriguing blend of Marie Duffau Armagnac, Gran Torres Liqueur, and fresh lemon juice with a sugar in the raw rim.

Lever House makes their Calvados Sidecar with fresh lime juice, calvados, cointreau, and apple crisp garnish.

At Sapa, apple brandy takes main stage in the Hennessey Apple Side Car, a heady fruit cocktail with the classic Cognac, Berentzen Apple Liqueur, fresh lime and a sugar rim.

At minibar in Los Angeles, the classic comes cold in their Frozen Sidecar, the time-tested combination of lime juice, cointreau, and brandy blended with ice.

In Las Vegas, Michael Mina Bellagio has does the Sidecar West Coast style with his Cable Car, a concoction of spiced rum, orange cointreau, and fresh lemon juice.

I'm not sure I'd call these all Sidecars, but they show the interesting things you can do riffing on a classic.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#20 wmsmurray

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Posted 13 February 2005 - 03:49 PM

Classic sidecar:

1.5 oz : cognac or cognac-like brandy
1.0 oz : Cointreau
0.5 oz : fresh lemon juice
lemon twist for garnish

Take a lemon wedge, notch a slice into the middle and use it to moisten the rim of a chilled cocktail glass.  Frost the moistened outer rim of the glass with superfine sugar.

Shake ingredients together with cracked ice and strain into prepared cocktail glass.  Garnish with lemon twist.

Thanks for this recipe Samuel. It is perfect - exactly how I like it. I tried making them once before using generic triple sec and the Cointreau makes ALL the difference.
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#21 DrinkBoy

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Posted 14 February 2005 - 08:32 AM

Classic sidecar:

1.5 oz : cognac or cognac-like brandy
1.0 oz : Cointreau
0.5 oz : fresh lemon juice
lemon twist for garnish

Take a lemon wedge, notch a slice into the middle and use it to moisten the rim of a chilled cocktail glass.  Frost the moistened outer rim of the glass with superfine sugar.

Shake ingredients together with cracked ice and strain into prepared cocktail glass.  Garnish with lemon twist.

I should point out that it might not be appropriate to call this the "Classic" sidecar, since in my mind that would denote that the recipe is the "original", or at the very least the version as it was commonly served during the early days of the drink... which the above is not.

The oldest version of this recipe that I have in my collection is from "Cocktails: How To Mix Them", by Robert Vermeire, which was apparently published in 1922. The recipe listed there is:


Side-Car
Fill the shaker half full of broken ice and add:
1/6 gill of fresh Lemon Juice.
1/6 gill of Cointreau.
1/6 gill of Cognac Brandy.
Shake well and strain into a cocktail-glass.
This cocktail is very popular in France. It was first introduced in London by MacGarry, the celebrated bar-tender of Buck's Club.

I think that this "equal parts" version of the Sidecar is what should be referred to as the "classic" version of the recipe, and also note the lack of a sugared rim (which was previously brought up by D.W.)

I'll also note, that I personally think that this "equal parts" recipe isn't properly balanced. My preference for the sidecar is a 4-2-1 ratio, which isn't too far off from the recipe that you provided. The sidecar was one of the first cocktails that really opened my ideas to the notion of not only "balance" in finding the proper ratios for a cocktail, but also in the importance of using the right/best ingredients. Since I found all sorts of various recipes, sour mix, triple sec, etc. I experimented with all of them and when I finally hit on the 4-2-1 ratio using fresh lemon juice and Cointreau, it was just -so- obvious that this was the perfect match that it was an eye-opening experience for me.

...I also am not a big fan of the sugared rim. It always ends up getting my fingers all sticky. One bartender once told me that his trick is to prep the glasses way before hand, as the moistened rim both further dissolves the sugar, and dries, it forms a hard crust which doesn't melt off as quickly.

-Robert

#22 slkinsey

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Posted 14 February 2005 - 08:55 AM

Classic sidecar:

1.5 oz : cognac or cognac-like brandy
1.0 oz : Cointreau
0.5 oz : fresh lemon juice
lemon twist for garnish

Take a lemon wedge, notch a slice into the middle and use it to moisten the rim of a chilled cocktail glass.  Frost the moistened outer rim of the glass with superfine sugar.

Shake ingredients together with cracked ice and strain into prepared cocktail glass.  Garnish with lemon twist.

I should point out that it might not be appropriate to call this the "Classic" sidecar, since in my mind that would denote that the recipe is the "original", or at the very least the version as it was commonly served during the early days of the drink... which the above is not.

I agree 100%. Poor choice of words. I should have said "typical Sidecar" or "representative Sidecar" or something like that.

My preference for the sidecar is a 4-2-1 ratio, which isn't too far off from the recipe that you provided. The sidecar was one of the first cocktails that really opened my ideas to the notion of not only "balance" in finding the proper ratios for a cocktail, but also in the importance of using the right/best ingredients. Since I found all sorts of various recipes, sour mix, triple sec, etc. I experimented with all of them and when I finally hit on the 4-2-1 ratio using fresh lemon juice and Cointreau, it was just -so- obvious that this was the perfect match that it was an eye-opening experience for me.

The recipe I provided was 3:2:1, so it's very close to yours. At home, I tend to go either your way at 4:2:1 or Dave's way at 4:2:2 (aka 2:1:1). It depends a fair bit on the brandy being used, as some lend themselves to different formulations depending on the inherrent sweetness. Lately my taste has been trending a little more towards the sour side of the balance.

I agree, by the way, that simple sour drinks like the Sidecar are perfect for learning about balance and learning about the difference that quality ingredients can make. There aren't so many variables to deal with, and the differences are usually quite obvious when one variable is adjusted (especially in the sweet/sour balance, but also with respect to the quality of the triple sec and the bottling of brandy). The Sidecar is a drink that, while simple, is capable of so much change. It's still teaching me a lot (which is good, because I have a lot to learn :smile:).

...I also am not a big fan of the sugared rim. It always ends up getting my fingers all sticky. One bartender once told me that his trick is to prep the glasses way before hand, as the moistened rim both further dissolves the sugar, and dries, it forms a hard crust which doesn't melt off as quickly.

Interesting. How do your fingers get sticky? Don't you hold the glass by the stem? The way I usually do sugared rims at home is to take a glass out of the freezer, sugar the outside of the rim with superfine sugae, and then return the glass to the freezer while I make the drink.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#23 JAZ

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Posted 14 February 2005 - 09:26 AM

What I've experienced, Sam, is that if a bartender chills the glass by filling it with ice and water (or it's been resting in a tub of ice) and then sugars the rim, the sugar melts and drips down the sides of the glass. Then it doesn't matter how you hold the glass, because there's sugar syrup pretty much all over it.

When you sugar the rim of a frozen glass, especially if you return it to the freezer, that doesn't happen because the sugar sets before you start to drink from the glass.

#24 DrinkBoy

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Posted 14 February 2005 - 01:03 PM

...How do your fingers get sticky?  Don't you hold the glass by the stem?

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I find that any moisture on the outside of the glass brings with it the opportunity for that moisture to "creep" down the sides of the glass and carry the sugar with it. That, plust the fact that I don't always necessarily hold the glass just by the stem. Sometimes I find it more comfortable to hold it by the lower half of the glass, or there abouts.

The problem of course is increased when the bartender serves you a Sidecar in a pint glass, which they had also used as the mixing glass during shaking, and just quickly dipped in sugar before pouring in the contents of the mixing tin. Their ain't -no- way you are going to survive such an encounter with clean hands.

-Robert

#25 slkinsey

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Posted 14 February 2005 - 01:13 PM

Um... yuck. I see what you mean.
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#26 Rob Simmon

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Posted 15 February 2005 - 05:43 PM

The sidecar was one of the first cocktails that really opened my ideas to the notion of not only "balance" in finding the proper ratios for a cocktail, but also in the importance of using the right/best ingredients.

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In that spirit, what are the preferred cognacs for a Sidecar? I'm not happy with Croizet VSOP (too dry?) and can't remember what my previous bottle was that I did like. In general, I prefer the smaller labels over the big corporate distilleries (for just about everything alcoholic, not just cognac!).

#27 ludja

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Posted 15 February 2005 - 09:01 PM

It may be big and corporate and all, but I recently made a great sidecar with Courvoisier and Cointreau

2 oz : 1 oz : 0.5 oz (i.e. 4:2:1)

and a sugared rim (with no dripping, sticky sides!)
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#28 slkinsey

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Posted 24 February 2005 - 12:00 PM

Writer and eGullet member Elizabeth Johnson has a great article about the Sidecar that came out today in The Journal News.

Like its classic cousins the martini and the Manhattan, the sidecar is enjoying a comeback. Young drinkers, weaned on cosmos and chocolate martinis, are turning to older, more sophisticated drinks — and finding they're liking them.

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Cocktail meccas in Manhattan like the Flatiron Lounge and Bemelmans Bar are serving new versions of it, as are such restaurants as BLT Steak, which has a 6 Train Sidecar made with armagnac, and Lever House, which makes a Calvados Sidecar.

"Once in a while you come across a recipe that will literally last forever," says George Delgado . . . "It will hibernate, and sometimes a twist of an ingredient or two will bring it back to life — and that brings the awareness of the original."

There is also a nice section on Audrey Saunders and her popular variation, the Tantris Sidecar. She gives a recipe for a standard Sidecar (Dave will be happy to note the 2:1:1 ratio, and I was happy to note that the glass is put in the freezer to firm up after the rim is sugared) as well as one for Audrey's Tantris Sidecar.

Thanks to Liz for a great article!
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#29 Liz Johnson

Liz Johnson
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Posted 24 February 2005 - 12:12 PM

Thanks Sam. I'd been making them at home for years, and was reading along here at eGullet, but when I ordered one at that bar I mentioned in Irvington and the bartender told me it was the second one she'd been asked for in a few days — I knew I was on to something. Audrey's drink and Jennifer Baum's round-up convinced me I was right.
Liz Johnson

Professional:
Food Editor, The Journal News and LoHud.com
Westchester, Rockland and Putnam: The Lower Hudson Valley.

Small Bites, a LoHud culinary blog


Personal:
Sour Cherry Farm.

#30 slkinsey

slkinsey
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Posted 24 February 2005 - 12:21 PM

Julie Reiner's Sidecar at Flatiron Lounge, made with Hennessy VSOP and GranGala, is pretty cool too.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey