Thursday, May 10, 2012

XXQC - Sidecar

In reference to cocktails, sours are generally comprised of a rough ratio of 2:1:1, spirit:sweet:sour, with some subtle variation.  The existence and possibilities of combinations when considering such proportions and ingredients are simply endless.  From the most basic whiskey (whiskey, simple syrup, lemon) and pisco (pisco, simple syrup, lime) sours, to derivations such as the Caipirinha (cachaça, simple syrup, lime), Margarita (tequila, Cointreau, simple syrup, lime), and Daiquiri (rum, simple syrup, lime), or even further removed modifications with the addition of soda such as the Tom Collins (gin, simple syrup, lemon, soda) and Mojito (rum, simple syrup, lime, soda) to only name a handful.  And while the existence of such sours dates back to the mid 1800s, perhaps one of the most popular to have arisen since the times of Prohibition is the Sidecar...yet another of the XXQC.

Among the entire family of sour cocktails lies a particular group which was first classified as the 'New Orleans Sours' by Gaz Regan in his book The Joy of Mixology.  This group, of which he notes the Sidecar as among the earliest members, is characterized by sours comprised of a base spirit, an orange-flavored liqueur, and citrus juice...and includes other well known cocktails such as the Margarita and Cosmopolitan.  In contemplation of the history of these 'New Orleans Sours', it would be remiss were I to ignore an early predecessor to the class, the crustas.  The crusta category of cocktails was credited by bartender Jerry Thomas to Joseph Santina, a popular Spanish caterer and proprietor of City Exchange in the mid-1800s in New Orleans.  First described in Thomas' How to Mix Drinks or The Bon Vivant's Companion in 1862, the Brandy Crusta married brandy, curaçao, lemon juice, sugar, and bitters.  As noted by Regan, ''s basically a Sidecar with bitters.'  The cocktail itself was to be served in a sugar-rimmed, wine goblet-style cocktail glass, with an extra long peel of lemon encircling the inside of the glass as garnish.

With this as a backdrop, it is easy to see how the Sidecar came to fruition, yet its precise origin remains uncertain.  It is often considered to have been devised sometime in the 1920s, and with that, represents one of the more popular cocktails to have arisen during Prohibition.  Along with the first published recipe for the Sidecar in Harry MacElhone's 1922 version of Harry's ABC of Mixing Cocktails, credit went out to Pat MacGerry, then bartender at London's Buck's Club.  Subsequent publications have replicated this claim, while yet others come up with completely novel origins, some also with slight tweaks on the original recipe.  And while these differences most commonly altered the ratio of ingredients, one of the more widely recognized characteristics of the 'modern day' Sidecar, the sugared rim, didn't surface until sometime in the mid 1930s.

1 1/2 oz cognac
1 oz Cointreau
1/2 oz lemon juice

Combine all ingredients with ice and shake until well chilled. Double strain into a chilled, sugar-rimmed cocktail glass*

*A quick thought with respect to the sugared rim of the Sidecar...should you or shouldn't you?  To me, it is simply a matter of personal preference (and I prefer none given the inherent sweetness present in the cocktail itself), but an easy accommodation is to sugar only half of the rim, thereby leaving it up to the imbiber.  If doing so, a bit of advanced preparation (10-15 mins) is preferential as this allows for the sugar to 'set' and helps to prevent residual sugary runoff on the outside of the glass.  Rub the outside of a cocktail glass with a cut lemon and lightly dredge the glass with superfine sugar.

While there are many different variations of a Sidecar, one of the more popular riffs swaps gin for the cognac, alters the ratio to 4:1:1, and includes egg white.

White Lady
2 oz gin
1/2 oz Cointreau
1/2 oz lemon juice
1 egg white

Combine all ingredients and dry shake until frothy, then add ice and shake to chill.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Other spins offer up a simple substitution of the main spirit for something such as the Rum Sidecar.  With my own creation I stuck with cognac but moved it even a bit more forward with the use of Mandarine Napoleon rather than Cointreau.  Created by the blend of distilled mandarin orange-infused neutral spirit and cognac, Mandarine Napoleon was in fact conceived sometime in the second half of the 18th century by the Emperor's personal physician, Dr. Antoine François de Fourcroy.  It was so well loved and popularized by Napoleon himself that the original recipe, along with the addition of other herbs and spices, finally went into official production in 1892.  The combination of this liqueur with a touch of Fernet Branca lends a bit more spice and some herbal notes to distinguish it from the original Sidecar.  Paired with the half sugared rim, this was the result.

Bonaparte's Medicine
2 oz Louis Royer, Force 53 V.S.O.P. cognac
3/4 oz Mandarine Napoleon
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/8 oz Fernet Branca

Shake all ingredients with ice until well chilled.  Double strain into a chilled, half sugar-rimmed cocktail glass.

Bonaparte's Medicine

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