Monday, June 13, 2011

This is a Sidecar?

Someone who walks up to a bar and orders a Sidecar is likely to want something quite specific—a known quantity. The customer ordering that drink by name without consulting the list is probably not interested in what someone added just to be different any more than a Rum and Coke customer wants Pepsi. (Sorry if this all seems pedantic but lately I’ve been served some pretty nasty things.)

The Sidecar is a three-ingredient classic cocktail than anyone can make and every professional should know. The proportions are a matter of taste, but the ingredients are brandy, Cointreau and lemon juice. Lime is a reasonable substitution without changing the basic personality of the drink. Some people like to add things to the formula, which are sometimes very nice, but the Sidecar cannot be improved upon. And if you substitute an ingredient, it is no longer a Sidecar but something else, and also not an improvement, however tasty it might be.

Some unsuitable things that have turned up in my glass when I ordered a Sidecar:
  • Orange juice
  • Muddled orange slices
  • Bourbon
  • Simple syrup
  • Sweet and sour mix
  • Soda
  • Some unidentified substance smelling of bowl freshener
It seems to me that the easiest way to deal with the problem of making a drink you don’t know is to ask how it’s made.

  • 1 1/2 – 2 oz brandy
  • 3/4 oz Cointreau
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The proportions above are what I happen to prefer, pouring a little on the strong side. Like so many of the best things in life, Sidecars are best rich and boozy. Gautier VSOP cognac makes a great Sidecar, as does Courvoisier VS. A good drink reveals the spirit. To those who have served me bad Sidecars, I simply say fear not the booze. Let it be your friend.


  1. That's what you get for assuming any bartender can make you a decent drink.

  2. Well, sometimes I had reasonable hope. Sometimes I would issue directions and watch the train wreck anyway. Yeah.

  3. I once was served a concoction of mostly Rose's Lime on the rocks after ordering a Sidecar. For a while this put me off ordering cocktails when I was out. (In fairness it was at a restaurant specializing in appetizers and flights of wine). I had the "I'll just have beer & wine when out" attitude that Robert Hess describes in the video linked to on DJHS's most recent post about OFs. Eventually I changed my ways. I was even able to get a decent Sidecar once at Milestones, though it was inexplicably served in a snifter...

    Oh, one more thing: No sugar on the glass Rowen?

  4. A snifter—heh!

    As for the sugar rim, I’m all for crustas and things but would just as soon do without extra sugar on something so elegant. This evening I was dining with some fine folks, and the lady expressed annoyance at the tendency of the sugar to mix with the condensation on the glass and turn the thing into a sticky mess. I don’t know that I can control myself enough to make a Sidecar last long enough to see this, but it sounds pretty gross.


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