Recipe: Sidecar for the 21st Century
Yesterday was "Lemonade Stand Day" in the City of Houston. And lemonade happens to be the perfect ingredient for our favorite cocktail. Try our recipe, and you'll likely lobby for Lemonade Day every day.
The sidecar is a delectable cocktail said to have originated in the early 20th century. We've been a fan for years, and we've taught countless barkeeps how to make it. In fact, our rule of thumb for an excellent bartender is whether he or she knows this cocktail. When the bartender asks, we tell them a sidecar is a margarita made with brandy or maybe cognac, not tequila, and with lemon juice, not lime juice.
If you don't want to pony up $25 to $45 or more for French brandy/cognac that you're mixing anyway, just copy Paul Drosos, the liquor specialist at the Spec's at Holcombe and Greenbriar: use Paul Masson Grande Amber Brandy. It's from California, it's under $20, and tastes just fine for this purpose. We've also had a good result with Hardy VSOP Cognac.
During a stay at the hip boutique hotel Galleria Park in San Francisco, we discovered in its lounge that the Art of the Sidecar has not died. In fact, hotel bartender Jake inspired us by topping ours off with macerated cherries - cherries soaked in brandy. We rhapsodized over the drink's perfection, and he coached us in recreating it, saying the cherries could be found online.
Back in Houston, we had no luck on the Internets, and went on a search. Spec's had something called Grillotines that looked like said cherries, but $20 a jar seemed a bit much. We went for it, though, upon finding the same 400-gram jar for $3 cheaper at Central Market.
Squeezing lemons is tiresome and requires about as much effort as we usually put into making an entire meal. You can find the very best homemade lemonade year round at the nearest Chik-Fil-A. A gallon is only $9.73; you can get it made with either sugar or Splenda. We chose the latter. (You couldn't have bought it on the actual Lemonade Day, because the chain closes on Sundays for Godly reasons. In fact, don't tell any Chik-Fil-A employee we're using the chain's lemonade for this cocktail, because it's kinda like using chemistry lab equipment to make meth.)
Because Chik-Fil-A's lemonade consists only of lemons, water and sweetener, it has a shelf life. I couldn't use it quickly enough, so I poured it into jelly jars, froze it, and added the brandy and Cointreau later.
Then even more inspiration struck: Why not prepare a complete cocktail ahead of time and freeze that? Then all you have to do is sit it out in the Houston heat for a bit so it'll melt enough to pour -- and toast yourself on your new status as a Sidecar Savant with a hair-trigger shaker.
Sidecar for the 21st Century
Shaken over crushed ice, not stirred; pour into a glass brimming with brandied cherries and maybe even a sugared rim.