Allegedly dating back to the days of World War I and Papa Hemingway’s favorite bar in Paris (that would be Harry’s, of course) and apparently invented either by or for a motorcycling serviceman with a sidecar on his vehicle, this is a drink that is being revived more and more often these days. As with most of the other classic cocktails, there is a pretty huge amount of variation in the proportions of what boils down to being a delightfully simple drink. However, after looking at a number of recipes from different sources, there are two basic variations.
The Sidecar (modern day)
2 ounces cognac or brandy
1 ounce Cointreau
1/2 – 1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake very vigorously, and pour into a pre-chilled glass. Some bartenders garnish with a lemon twist. Others rim the glass with sugar by wetting the edge of the glass with lemon juice and placing the glass on plate of bowl of sugar. However, serving this drink garnish free in simply a chilled glass will do just fine.
Now, some recipes from less reputable sources might also suggest you could use any brand of triple sec — Cointreau is the relatively pricey “original” triple sec and is drier than the garden variety. After experimenting all week with a cut rate version using a decent but basic brand of the orange liqueur, I’m here to tell you that simply doesn’t work in the above recipe. Even with an entire ounce of lemon, it was way too insipidly sweet if I used the smaller amount of lemon juice for me, and I have more of a sweet tooth than most hardcore cocktail aficionados. Even with more of the super tart juice, however, the darn thing simply failed to come together, which I guess is why everybody in the booze world I respect implies it’s either Cointreau or the highway here.
However, there is an older version of the beverage which is an entirely different story and great news for us impoverished cocktail hounds
The Sidecar (original)
1 ounce brandy or Cognac
1 ounce Triple Sec or Cointreau
1 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
Again, this is prepared by simply shaking very vigorously and lengthily and pouring into a chilled martini glass.
While this is a bit less stiff than the drink above and in theory should be more sickeningly sweet, the cocktail alchemy seems to be entirely different and the arguably excessive sweetness of the triple sec and the tartness of the lemon juice counterbalance each other quite beautifully with the brandy acting as an effective moderator. I can’t wait to try this and the above recipe with Cointreau. Maybe somebody will send me a free bottle…
As for brandy vs. Cognac, I’ve had Cognacs that were not as good as the inexpensive French brandy (Raynal) I’ve had great luck with on other drinks, but just be aware that Cognac is simply a more expensive type of grape brandy made in a specific part of France. If anyone wants to send me some Cognac, they’re naturally welcome as well.