Friday, March 30, 2012

Monthly Moonshine: An Introduction and a Sidecar

I have to tell you, I've always loved cocktails. They're so much fun and there's so much room for creativity. There's also a lot of room for unmitigated disaster, but that's why people write down the good cocktails when they happen upon a combination that works.

I prefer the simple cocktails, the ones that have three or four ingredients and come together in a couple of minutes. Usually if I feel like having a drink I open a beer or, if I'm feeling a bit more sophisticated, a bottle of wine. But in an attempt to broaden my drinking horizons I'm going to feature a drink at the end of each month; some monthly moonshine, if you will (though I'm not going to be trying any actual moonshine). I was toying with the idea of doing this bi-weekly, but in the name of preserving funds and preventing alcoholism, I think monthly is appropriate.

I might mix a cocktail one month, try a different bottle of wine in another, let you know about a particularly interesting beer, or even about a bar or restaurant that offers something unique in the drink world. I might even venture into the world of whiskey. Today I bring you the Sidecar.

Like all famous cocktails, the origins of the Sidecar are debatable, though people seem to agree that it first appeared in the 1920s. Some say it was invented in London, others say in Paris, and who knows? Wherever it came from, it was popular. The people of the twenties loved their Sidecars.

For whatever reason the Sidecar is one of those drinks that dropped of the face of the planet for a while. Like gin it had the stigma of being a grandparent's drink. But old is new again and old fashioned cocktails are on the rise, likely, in part, due to shows like Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire.

Since it's been in hiding for so long, I found a wide variety of recipes, all claiming to be the 'authentic' Sidecar. About the only thing they agreed on was the ingredients: brandy, triple sec, and lemon juice. Of course the purists get specific and say it needs to be Cognac and Cointreau. I had neither so I used St. Remy brandy and whatever brand of triple sec I had lying around.

Next there was a debate about the ratios. In some cases the drink called for twice as much brandy as the other two liquids and others used more triple sec. I also found several that used equal parts of each, so as a compromise that's what I did. Given the colour of my drink when I finished compared with the slightly darker colour of pictures online, I think that most people throw in the extra brandy.

Either way it was a good cocktail. Just the right amount of tanginess with a smooth finish. The alcohol wasn't overpowering and it's refreshing. I may have found my new cocktail of choice.

The following is the recipe I used, but feel free to double the brandy if you're so inclined.

3/4 oz brandy
3/4 oz triple sec
3/4 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice

Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled martini glass. Enjoy!

The freshly squeezed juice really does make a difference over the bottled stuff, so I would recommend buying a lemon. If anyone tries it with 1 1/2 oz brandy, let me know how it turns out!

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