It's the weekend, which means we're back at the bar with AskMen's resident bartenders, Josh and Luke. They're both skilled at their trade, but between them runs the age-old schism of bartending: Should you drink the "original" version or a recent innovation? We won't pick sides, but it's worth doing lots of experimenting to figure out who's right.
Luke, the traditionalist: The old-school Sidecar
While the Sidecar is a cocktail with a rich tradition and a predecessor from the very early stages of cocktail history, for our purposes here, it's helpful to think of it this way: It's the best, most foolproof way to get people to drink brandy.
Curiously enough, this most venerable of old recipes is appreciated both by history-minded barkeeps and the more casual “fruity martinis” crowd at once, which is a pretty rare convergence of opinions. Here's why that works: While the recipe is a study in simplicity and efficient design, it has a few particular attributes that are appealing to the sweet-toothed, namely, a sugar-crusted rim and a very user-friendly citrus profile. Those two qualities helped the Sidecar make inroads into the mainstream bar world, roughly around the time of the resurgence of the Cosmopolitan. But it's deceiving, since this isn't an overly sweetened cocktail -- it's a perfectly sweetened cocktail. Here the sugar is meant as a balance to the tart lemon, not as a flavor overload.
don't hate on the sugared rim
That sugared rim isn't the bullsh*t modern affectation it seems like either. The Sidecar's origin actually comes from an early style of cocktail from the mid-19th century called the crusta, as Ted Haigh points out in his great resource, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, although the Sidecar as we know it didn't come about until sometime around World War I. While a Brandy Crusta is a bit more involved, a Sidecar streamlines the ingredients, which is something the home bartender can always appreciate. This is a simple recipe to follow, of equal parts brandy (or Cognac, most typically), Cointreau (the preferred type of the overarching triple sec liqueur category) and lemon juice. One, two, three. It's that simple.
While you're free to adjust the amount of each ingredient to your taste, the original-style recipe calls for three equal parts. I prefer a boozier pour myself, but that's because I'm a sot.
Sidecar Recipe1 oz Cognac
1 oz Cointreau
1 oz fresh lemon juice
Use the leftover lemon to rinse the rim of the glass, then rotate the outer edge of the glass in a plate of sugar.
Shake over ice, strain into a glass.
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