Monthly Archives: February 2013

Sidecar

Gin may be cool, bourbon certainly sweet, and rye the next big thing – but brandy just rocks.  Cognac, Armagnac, American alembic – its all good.   And its even better in the only good cocktail to come out of Prohibition.  Because honestly, anything that involves mixing “bathtub” whatever with something is still going to taste like shit.  So it makes a certain amount of sense that the one good cocktail from that time period came from overseas where Prohibition was likely seen as the Americans going off on one of their periodic mass psychoses.

Where exactly the Sidecar was invented is lost to time,  but it is believed to have come from either London or Paris around World War I.   The Hotel Ritz in Paris claims to have come up with the recipe; others claim it was Harry’s Bar in Paris, a popular hangout for American expatriates of the Lost Generation.  The earliest recipes show up in 1922 in a couple of sources, including Harry MacElhone’s Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails.  (The same Harry from Harry’s Bar.)   In Harry’s own book, he originally claimed it was invented in London at the famous Buck’s Club by bartender Pat McGarry, who also invented the Buck’s Fizz, which we know as the Mimosa.  (What’s with all these famous Scottish bartenders from the 1920s? I have no idea – maybe its good training to grow up serving lots of ornery heavy drinkers in kilts.)  In later additions, Harry would claim he invented it himself.

My favorite origin story, because its so ridiculous, comes from Embury who claims it was the favorite drink of an American Army captain in Paris during WWI and named after the motorcycle sidecar the captain would ride in.  It was supposedly his favorite way to warm up  during the winter after a brisk ride in his sidecar.  Silly? Possibly.  Fucking awesome? A heavy drinking captain during the Great War zooming around on some insane contraption in the middle of Paris, his scarf flying in the wind like Snoopy fighting the Red Baron, regularly ending up at the same bar and downing a French twist on the American Cocktail? Hells yeah.

In truth, the Sidecar is a variation of a classic Sour – with brandy as the spirit and triple sec as the sweetener.  Regardless of who or where it was invented, today there are two basic recipes – the “French” version and the “English” version.   The French version calls for equal parts cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice – its a fairly light, citrusy, refreshing drink.   The alternative English version is the modern classic, more complex and robust with a 2:1:1 ratio.  I personally prefer the latter, but with the Sidecar, the exact proportions are entirely a matter of personal taste.  Some folks also like the addition of a sugared rim – but I often go without.

Sidecar

English version:

2 oz. brandy
1 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. lemon juice

French version:

1 oz. brandy
1 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. lemon juice

Shake and strain into cocktail glass.  Sugared rim optional.

Advertisements

Salty Dog

Loooooong blogging hiatus.  Turns out that regular blogging consumes a lot of time – and effort –  if its not your day job.  Particularly when it involves a regimen of regular boozing.  Regardless,  Mrs. ChinaNob has increasingly complained of late of the lack of booze-blogging – or rather, the lack of weekly cocktail tasting as a product of regular booze-blogging.  Eventually, one has to relent or suffer the marital consequences.

Tonight’s plan involved a lime.  Or, alternatively a lemon.  The crisper drawer had other plans.   Plenty of carrots from the CSA box.   As well as leeks, some beets, a bunch of kale.   Great if my plan involved cooking a winter stew.  Or an incredibly gross drink.  Buried in the back though was a Texas grapefruit I had completely forgotten about.

Grapefruit isn’t a particularly common cocktail citrus.  Lemons – try making a Sidecar or Whiskey Sour without one.  Limes – kiss a Margarita or Daiquiri goodbye without one.   But a grapefruit? There’s the classic Hemingway Daiquiri – but you also need a lime for that one.  Planter’s Punch is a good one, if you also have a lemon, a lime and an orange.  Sea Breeze?  Only if you are a 25 year old hipster reliving the 80’s you were never alive for – and you have cranberry juice and a bottle of grain neutral spirits.

Fortunately, there’s an old classic that is both easy drinking and easy making for the perennially lazy like myself – the Salty Dog.   Gin, grapefruit, salt.   Can’t get much easier than that unless you are just doing shots.   Cafe Van Kleef, a great little bar in Oakland, serves these without salt as Bulldogs.  You have to give some props to a live music dive-y joint whose house drink involves serving gin & fresh pressed grapefruit with a big honking slice of a garnish.  (Total aside – if you haven’t been, get thee hence to Oakland for a visit – best damn town in the Bay Area).   So, in homage to Van Kleef – a Salty Dog, with a big ole garnish.

Salty Dog

2 oz. gin
4 oz. grapefruit juice

Build in salt-rimmed highball with ice.  Obnoxious garnish optional.