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The Sidecar Cocktail

The Sidecar

Entry Date: December 2010

About the Drink (From Wikipedia)

The exact origin of the Sidecar is unclear, but it is thought to have been invented around the end of World War I in either London or Paris. The Ritz Hotel in Paris claims origin of the drink.[1] The first recipes for the Sidecar appear in 1922, in Harry MacElhone's Harry's ABC of Mixing Cocktails and Robert Vermeire's Cocktails and How to Mix Them. It is one of six basic drinks listed in David A. Embury's The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks (1948).

In early editions of MacElhone's book, he cites the inventor as Pat MacGarry, "the Popular bar-tender at Buck's Club, London," but in later editions he cites himself. Vermiere states, "This cocktail is very popular in France. It was first introduced in London by MacGarry, the celebrated bar-tender of Buck's Club." Embury credits the invention of the drink to an American Army captain in Paris during World War I "and named after the motorcycle sidecar in which the good captain was driven to and from the little bistro where the drink was born and christened".

Both MacElhone and Vermiere state the recipe as equal parts Cognac, Cointreau, and lemon juice, now known as "the French school". Later, an "English school" of Sidecars emerged, as found in the Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), which call for two parts Cognac and one part each of Cointreau and lemon juice.

According to Embury, the original Sidecar had several more ingredients, which were "refined away." Embury also states the drink is simply a Daiquiri with brandy as its base rather than rum, and with Cointreau as the sweetening agent rather than sugar syrup. He recommends the same proportions (8:2:1) for both, making a much less sweet Sidecar.

The earliest mention of sugaring the rim on a Sidecar glass is 1934, in three different books: Burke's Complete Cocktail & Drinking Recipes, Gordon's Cocktail & Food Recipes, Drinks As They Are Mixed (a revised reprint of Paul E. Lowe's 1904 book).

Preferred Formulations

Dale DeGroff, ICE Master Judge
“1  ounce VSOP Cognac
1 ounce Cointreau
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and shake well with ice, strain into a small cocktail glass with a lightly sugared rim. Garnish with small a flamed orange zest.”

Gary Regan, ICE Master Judge
"45 ml (1.5 oz) cognac
30 ml (1 oz) Cointreau
15 ml (.5 oz) fresh lemon juice
1 lemon twist for garnish

Shake over ice and strain into a chilled, sugar-rimmed cocktail glass.

I use the 3:2:1 formula for my Sidecars.  Same way I make my Margaritas.  Three parts base spirit, 2 parts Cointreau, one part citrus juice.  Works every time.

I love how many people have laid claim to this drink, a cocktail that you might say is loosely based on the Brandy Crusta found in Jerry Thomas’s 1862 book.  Robert Vermiere, author of the 1922 book, Cocktails, How to Mix Them, contended that "[The Sidecar] is very popular in France. It was first introduced in London by MacGarry, the celebrated bar-tender of Buck's Club."  And in My 35 Years Behind Bars: Memories and Advice of a Bartender, Including a Liquor Guide by Johnny Brooks, you can find the following passage:  “On my night off I went visiting a few places—busman’s holiday.  In one place, the young bartender approached me for the order.  He said he could make any kind of drink I wanted.  So just for the fun of it I said, ‘Could you suggest something in the line of a cocktail?’ ‘Yes sir, just let me make it, and you’ll like it.' Sure enough he made one, and the minute I tasted it I knew it was a sidecar cocktail that I had originated many years ago.  I was rather surprised myself, and, over the young man’s objections, I almost but not quite convinced him that it was the drink that I originated.

Not one for being left out, David Embury contended that the drink "was invented by a friend of mine at a bar in Paris during World War I and was named after the motorcycle sidecar in which the good captain customarily was driven to and from the little bistro where the drink was born and christened,”  in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks."

Ryan Magarian, ICE Master Judge
“1 1/2 oz. Hennessy VS Cognac
1 oz. Cointreau Dry Orange Liqueur
1/2 oz. Freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a pint mixing glass or shaker, add liquid ingredients fill with ice, and shake vigorously for 6 seconds.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with an orange wedge.
(Please note that I do indeed omit the sugar rimmed glass in my recipe.)”

LeNell Smothers, ICE Master Judge
"1.5 ounces brandy
1 ounce orange liqueur
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed key lime juice

Moisten at least a half inch or more of the outside rim of a cocktail glass with a citrus wedge. Dip the moistened area into sugar making a sparkly sugar mess on the side of the glass cuz I like to lick a lot of sugar off the glass. If making for someone fussy, perhaps rim only one side of the glass so they can choose whether or not to run their tongue over the sugary rim. Pour liquid over ice in shaker. Shake and strain into chilled, sugared cocktail glass. We don't garnish with anything but a wicked grin!

Cognac is delicious, but often comes with a bit of pomp and fancy. We love to use the naughtier, rowdy Armagnac or an apple brandy. If Calvados is not around, our favorite American apple brandy Laird's will do just fine for my Kiddie Car as David Embury might call it. Nine times out of ten, though, we grab the easiest thing to come by down here in Baja which is Spanish brandy. A mere "triple sec" will do in a pinch, but this drink is best made by a fine orange liqueur like Cointreau or perhaps Combier. Lemons ain't so easy to come by in the desert of Mexico so, yes, hate us, but we make our Sidecars often with yellow key limes."