This week on The Back Burner we’re supposed to be talking Thanksgiving side dishes. But Thanksgiving was yesterday, and you still have plenty of leftover side dishes in your refrigerator. The last thing you want are more sweet potato recipes or yet another idea for green beans. So no side dishes from me today.
But the theme did get me thinking. The closest thing to a side dish in the classic cocktail realm is probably a Sidecar. At least they sound similar, don’t you think?. So today instead of a side dish I bring you a Sidecar.
Typically cocktails fall into three categories Dry, Fruity & Fresh; Sweet, Rich & Creamy; and Sour & Tangy. The Sidecar falls into the latter category– my favorite drink category. Classic sour combinations usually include some sort of base spirit with a zesty, dry fruit element. Which sounds easy enough. But a Sour & Tangy cocktail often requires a deft palate and a spare hand to get the balance just right.
The origins of the Sour & Tangy cocktail probably dates back to early British sailors, who were given lime juice to help prevent scurvy. So as the story goes (sailors being sailors) they began to mix their sour fruit rations with standard-issue rum or gin. Leading to a whole range of classics including the Whiskey Sour, Tom Collins and eventually the Margarita.
But when to best enjoy these Sour & Tangy creations? Well, I think they’re perfect in the very civilized “drinks before dinner” tradition. The zesty style of these drinks is quite refreshing and can even stimulate the appetite. A good cocktail sets the tone for an evening with friends. I prefer a cocktail to wine before a special meal. Wine can be quite filling and usually is at its best when paired with food. Classic cocktails are classic for a reason, so get to know a few of your favorites. The Sidecar is one of the most regal of the classics. The next time you plan a dinner with friends consider drinks before dinner and serve a Sidecar.
The Sidecar itself is a dry and complex little tipple. Created in the 1920s at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, it was supposedly named after a loyal customer who had the rather quirky and distinctive habit of arriving at the bar sitting in the sidecar of a chauffeur driven motorcycle. In the right hands the Sidecar maintains the perfect balance of strong, sweet and sour. You’ll often see it made with brandy, though I prefer dry Cognac. Cointreau is preferred to triple sec and it’s crucial that the cocktail be served ice cold.