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Cognac and the classic cocktail- The Sidecar

uselesscamper Oct 13, 2008 05:54 PM

My exploration of wine led me to branch off to Cognac. My current favorite is Courvoisier V.S.O.P. The aromas seem refined & complex, the alcohol isn't overwhelming; the flavors are again complex, nutty and buttery, but smooth and round.
So this experimentation led us to the discovery of the classic and unrated cocktail- The Sidecar. It's a simple cocktail just 3 ingredients, Cognac (or high end Brandy), orange liqueur (such as Cointreau, Grand Marnier), and lemon juice.
My ingredient recommendations- Cognac V.S.O.P, Patron Citronge (Cointreau is preferred but very expensive) and fresh squeezed lemon juice (and only fresh squeezed, I'm usually lucky enough to get them off my tree).
The Recipe-
1 oz. Cognac
1 oz. Patron Citronge or Cointreau
1 oz. Fresh squeezed lemon juice
Combine all the ingredients in a shaker filled with ice, shake well and strain into a cocktail glass (optionally sugar the rim).
To me a Sidecar in these proportions, made with these ingredients, produces a complex drink that balances the Cognac flavors (nutty, almond, butter, smoke, vanilla) against the orange/sweet/sour/citrus of the Citron & lemon. The one ingredient that varies in the drink is the lemon, so allow for some adjustment based on the flavor profile of the lemons available to you at purchase.
I'm interested in hearing about other recipes for the Sidecar or other drinks made with Cognac.
UselessCampers blog- http://the-wine-rack.blogspot.com

  1. davis_sq_pro Oct 13, 2008 07:13 PM

    You might be interested in reading Robert Hess's take on the drink:


    1 Reply
    1. re: davis_sq_pro
      uselesscamper Oct 13, 2008 07:36 PM

      Thanks davis, interesting article.

    2. JK Grence the Cosmic Jester Oct 14, 2008 07:15 AM

      Ah, the Sidecar, a truly wonderful drink. I follow a 3-2-1 proportion (i.e. 1-1/2 oz cognac, 1 oz triple sec, 1/2 oz lemon juice, something I consider classical proportions for the spirit-orange liqueur-citrus juice group of drinks. The same proportions work well for the Margarita, the Kamikaze, the Pegu Club Cocktail, the Cosmopolitan...

      1 Reply
      1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester
        kenito799 Oct 15, 2008 11:21 AM

        Yes I prefer the 3:2:1 ratio, but if using sweeter lemons or maybe Meyer lemons, one could increase the amount of lemon juice. I have made sidecars with Hennessey and loved them, but I found a much less expensive cognac called Claude Chatelier that is around $20 for 750ml. Better ingredients always make better cocktails, but I find that this cognac works very well (and really is better than using brandy in that price range). I also tend to make pitchers of sidecars for parties and that would get really expensive with $50 spirits.

        The orange is very important. I find Patron too sweet and not nearly as complex and bitter as Cointreau, so I prefer the latter. (However, you are balancing the extra sweetness with more lemon, so that helps.)

        Sidecar variations that I love (also made 3:2:1 ratio): Use St Germain elderflower liqueur or Canton ginger liqueur in place of the Cointreau.

      2. j
        jpc8015 Oct 14, 2008 07:44 AM

        I'd go with 1.5-2 oz. Brandy, 3/4 oz. orange liquer, and I actually muddle the lemons with the ice so that you get the lemon oil out of peel. I would not recomend using a high end cognac for this application, you lose a lot of the subtlety of the cognac. I think that a mid level brandy is fine.

        1. u
          uselesscamper Oct 14, 2008 08:17 AM

          Thanks for the great suggestions.
          I will try the 3-2-1 combination and I have to research Pegu Club Cocktail and muddle, never heard of them.

          3 Replies
          1. re: uselesscamper
            JK Grence the Cosmic Jester Oct 14, 2008 03:38 PM

            The Pegu is a cocktail that dates back to 1920s Burma, where the Pegu was a British officers' club in the thick of the jungle. It's a mix of gin, orange curaçao, fresh lime, and a hefty dose of Angostura bitters.

            1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester
              davis_sq_pro Oct 14, 2008 05:09 PM

              Most Pegu recipes don't use the 3:2:1 ratio; it's more typical to see 2:1:0.25. Savoy calls for a mere teaspoon of lime juice -- not quite enough in my opinion, but I do like the 2:1 gin:curaçao ratio.

            2. re: uselesscamper
              quazi Oct 16, 2008 07:52 AM

              muddling - helping to release the oils and juice from a fruit or vegetable. Use a muddler or long handled wooden spoon. really ups the ante for citrus in getting their essence into a drink.

            3. ShadowedOne Oct 14, 2008 10:07 AM

              I personally prefer a drier Sidecar and go with a 2:1:1 ratio when mixing it up. We checked out a bunch of recipes a while back on our website, might be a good place to check if you're looking for a bunch of Sidecar recipes.


              1 Reply
              1. re: ShadowedOne
                uselesscamper Oct 14, 2008 10:21 AM

                Nice site and great post. I'm sure I'll explore your website in more detail.

              2. t
                TimeMachine Oct 14, 2008 08:45 PM

                I go with two parts strong, one part sour, one part sweet for this one. I love sidecars.

                1. p
                  pollystyrene Oct 19, 2008 05:39 PM

                  The Sidecar was the first great, well-made cocktail I ever had, and the rest is history. Hiccup. I like the 1:1:1 ratio myself. I use Labiette Castille Bas Armagnac, and Cointreau. A nice variation on the Sidecar, especially in the colder months, is the Pear Tree. The original recipe calls for vodka, which I don't care for, so I substitute the armagnac, and it works well.

                  The Pear Tree:
                  2 oz. Armagnac or Cognac
                  2 oz. Pear Juice
                  3/4 oz. Cointreau
                  1 oz. Lemon Juice

                  Another great cocktail that I make substituting armagnac or cognac for vodka is the French Horn:

                  2 oz. Cognac
                  1 oz. Chambord
                  2 oz Lemon Juice

                  I introduced a friend, who previously didn't like cognac, to the French Horn. It was love at first sip. She then stocked her bar with the ingredients and made a batch one night. The next morning she discovered her step ladder under her meyer lemon tree, but doesn't remember how it got there....

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