Good drinks tell a story, and this is the story of those drinks. Each week, we serve up a remedial cocktail lesson for bartending beginners to help you get the most out of your glass, with recipes, interviews, and histories coming right up.
Hop in a sidecar and be whisked away on the fuel of your chosen brandy, perhaps to putter around some metaphorical countryside. Yes, the image of dashing around affixed to a motorcycle is appropriate because the drink's name, as you might have expected, is a clue as to its origin.
The sidecar was named "after the sidecar that used to carry the inventor of the drink to his favourite bar and, more important, home again." That telling comes to us from full-time sot and sometimes writer Kingsley Amis. Picture this next bit with him in mind: "A sidecar is the ideal vehicle for a soak when he's been soaking — he can forget about the driver and snore away in peace." Sir Amis is right that one sidecar begets another, as they're an eminently quaffable — and simple — combination of cognac, triple sec, and lemon juice.
You'll note that Amis has carefully avoided taking sides on the sidecar's country of origin. Where was that motorbike, after all? Was it at Harry's New York Bar in 1920′s Paris, a famous Hemingway hangout? There, some say an American army captain fond of his bike and sidecar combination concocted the drink, itself not far from a Brandy Daisy.
However, for its part, the Ritz Hotel Paris also claims the drink. InThe Artistry Of Mixing Drinks (1934) Frank Meier of that elegant haunt credits himself. Yet the first recipe for a sidecar appeared in Harry MacElhone's ABC of Mixing Cocktails (1922). Confusingly, in first editions of that volume, MacElhone, who was a barman from Dundee, Scotland that came to run Harry's New York Bar, says the drink's inventor was Pat MacGarry, "the popular bartender at Buck's Club, London." Then, in later editions MacElhone reverses himself, claiming the invention as his own. Perhaps he'd grown fond of it?
MacElhone's recipe is equal parts cognac, Cointreau, and lemon juice in what's now known as "the French school" of the drink. That's as later an "English school" emerged, calling for two parts cognac and one part each Cointreau and lemon juice.
"The Sidecar is often singled out as the only good cocktail to come out of the long national nightmare that was Prohibition," writes cocktail historian David Wondrich for Esquire. "And when you're sipping one, you almost think it was all worth it." His implication is that prohibition gave the sidecar its real rise to power.
Certainly a sidecar is a splendid go-to drink wherever it came from, and it's sure to make you its passenger wherever you're going. Here's a recipe that's a take-off on the Savoy Cocktail Book's (1930). You'll notice it's from the English School.
1 1/2 ounces cognac (1/2)
3/4 ounce Cointreau (1/4)
3/4 ounce lemon juice (1/4)
Shake well on cracked ice before straining onto a chilled cocktail glass. First, if you'd like, rub the rim with lemon juice and dip it in sugar.