Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Sidecar

I welcomed in September with a new band and a new spirit. The Rolling Stones will be helping me through brandy month, and what better way to start it than with one of the most basic cocktails?

David A. Embury wrote "The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks" in 1948 and it is one of the great classics of cocktail recipe books. His basic cocktail contains three ingredients: the base (strong), the modifying agents (sour, bitter, or aromatic), and the special flavoring/coloring agents (sweet). Like baking, the alchemy of a cocktail is based on proportions. His Sidecar is eight parts strong, two parts sour, one part sweet.

In measured terms, that means 2 ounces of cognac, 1/2 ounce of lemon juice, 1/4 ounce of Cointreau. Again, this is left entirely to taste. However you shake it, it's a simple, basic drink, but it's still a good one. My personal choice is 2 parts cognac to 1 part each Cointreau and lemon juice shaken hard over ice and served up in a chilled cocktail glass.

What you'll find with brandy, in contrast to spirits from the past months like gin, bitters, or anisette flavored liquors, is how fruity and sweet it is. It starts life from the same parents as its older sister wine, and like her, still retains close ties to France. In fact, if it's Cognac or Armagnac, it can only come from those specific regions in France.

For the sake of cocktails, it's probably not worth buying very expensive bottles of Cognac or Armagnac that are better enjoyed on their own from a snifter after a nice meal.

Experience also suggests, if you happen to be in Saigon with some high rollers, a bottle of Remy with a few cans of Coca Cola and glasses of ice might turn into a night you'll tell stories about. In fact, there may still be part of a bottle there with name of yours truly attached, along with a can of Pepsi, waiting to be reclaimed and finished.

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