Here’s a drink that emerged from the dark days of Prohibition: the Sidecar. Many American drinks from that era are pretty terrible, designed to mask the taste of bathtub liquors. Fortunately for us, Europe suffered no such tragedy as Prohibition, so European bartenders were able to pass down to us such drinks as the smooth, delicious, and cheerfully named Sidecar. The Sidecar is a Sour, that vast cocktail family that includes such diverse drinks as the Margarita and the Jack Rose. The Sidecar is a standout Sour, rich and smooth from the Cognac, sweet and citrusy from the Cointreau, and just a bit tart from the lemon. It’s a versatile drink, as great with a meal as it is when you’re feeling under the weather. – Andrew
Read below for the full recipe!
1 1/2 oz Cognac
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
3/4 oz Cointreau
Shake all the ingredients with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a lemon peel, and enjoy. Optionally, you can serve the Sidecar in a sugared glass: rub a lemon slice along the outside rim of the glass, then twirl the rim through a plate of sugar to frost the glass.
The Sidecar emerged in the late 1910s or early 1920s but, like most drinks, its origins are a bit murky. The most popular legend holds that the drink was invented at a French bar frequented by an American officer serving in France at the end of the First World War. This officer, who allegedly preferred to travel by motorcycle sidecar, asked one night for his Brandy, typically imbibed neat after dinner, to be lightened up with some lemon and sugar – hence the Sidecar.
Really? Maybe! I buy that the Sidecar emerged in France, because there’s a separate “French School” of the Sidecar, which mixes equal parts Cognac, lemon, and Cointreau. I buy that the Sidecar emerged right around the end of the First World War, since the earliest recipes appeared in print in 1922. I have no idea if the story is true, though, because the Sidecar could just have easily evolved from older, similar drinks like the Brandy Crusta or a Brandy Punch. We’ll probably never know, because all those who know the true origins of the drink were probably too busy drinking Sidecars to write it all down.
Is it ok to cheat and make this drink with plain old Brandy, instead of Cognac? Purists will disagree, but I think it’s ok. Cognac is Brandy produced in Cognac, France, under an Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC), which requires specific production methods. Cognac is generally more expensive than other Brandies; sometimes it’s worth it, but sometimes it’s not. Play around and see what works for you!
Photo Credits: Nole Garey for Oh So Beautiful Paper