Everyone should have a go-to drink in mind when they walk into a bar. It helps to take away that nervous feeling when you first look at the drink menu, and you might be unsure as to what to order. This is the critical moment for a lot of people, where you can be led astray by your uncertainly and end up with a vodka club in your hand. You all know how I feel about that! Even if you don’t see your cocktail on the list, and even if it’s not the one you end up drinking, it helps to tell the bartender what you normally like because he or she can take it from there. I’m going to start featuring classic cocktails on the blog on Mondays to help you build a kind of a taste library that you can reference when you’re in any bar or restaurant. Most bartenders will know how to make the classics, or they’ll be able to offer you a variation that their bar makes, maybe with a slight twist or an additional ingredient thrown in. Most of the classic cocktails are also fairly straightforward, and a great place to get started making drinks at home.
Our first of the Monday classics is the Sidecar, whose history takes us back to London and Paris in the 1920s, with a number of people actually claiming to have invented the recipe, including the owner of the Ritz Hotel. There are 2 variation of the original recipe; one is French and one is English. The French version is fairly sweet and is made with equal parts Cognac, Cointreau (an orange-flavored liqueur called a triple sec), and lemon juice. The English version, on the other hand, bumps up the Cognac to twice the amount of the other 2 ingredients. I tried both variations and preferred the second, but I also wanted to consult my Death & Co book to see which version they’d landed on. Their recipe keeps the Cognac at 2 ounces, but lowers the other 2 ingredients and adds a bit of simple syrup. I found their variation to be my favorite because it puts more emphasis on the Cognac, giving the cocktail a bit more backbone, and allowing the other ingredients to be subtle rather than too obvious. As with everything else though, let your tastebuds be your guide; that’s always the best the way to really know what you like. The Chelsea Sidecar replaces the Cognac with gin, offering one more variation for you to taste. These recipes are very simple and it becomes easy to see how both professional and home bartenders can come up with their own versions after just a few tweaks or additions. Give it a try!
Sidecar (from the Death & Co. Classic Cocktails book)
2 oz Cognac
½ oz Cointreau
¾ oz lemon juice
¼ oz simple syrup (1 part sugar dissolved in 1 part boiling water until clear)
Add all the ingredients to the bottom half of a shaker tin and fill ⅔ full with ice. Shake vigorously for 20-30 seconds until very cold. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist. Enjoy!
Chelsea Sidecar (my measurements following the recipe above)
2 oz Gin
½ oz Cointreau
¾ oz lemon juice
¼ oz simple syrup
Add all the ingredients to the bottom half of a shaker tin and fill ⅔ full with ice. Shake vigorously for 20-30 seconds until very cold. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist. Enjoy!