Sidecar Cocktail- Too Damn Elegant

Sometimes I’m just too damn elegant. Believe me I know how I seem. I’ve seen you roll your eyes at me. I’ve heard that mocking tone in your voice- that involuntary clucking you make in disbelief when I (politely) say to you. “Dinner, yes. Kids, no.”

Because sometimes I just want to slick my hair back, slip on a (metaphorical) smoking jacket and have a real conversation. With actual adults. There will be no juice boxes. No sugary snacks before dinner. No “special seating” at 6pm. No running through my house. No throwing food. No temper tantrums. No concessions. I don’t want to watch you clean up spittle with my linen napkins.

Despite the horror on your face right now, I know you’re secretly grateful to me. So pull up a leather club chair by the fire and let’s have a civilzed drink before dinner. There’s plenty of time. We don’t eat til eight.

Welcome to cocktail hour. Tonight I’m featuring a classic Parisian cocktail. The Sidecar Cocktail. It was born for that magical time when sophisticated folk gather together for a few drinks before dinner.

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.

drinks before dinner

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.

I think Sour & Tangy cocktails are perfect for 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 Cocktail.

The Sidecar Cocktail 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 Cocktail 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. GREG

The Sidecar Cocktail serves 1 CLICK here for a printable recipe

  • 1 wedge fresh lemon
  • 2 T superfine sugar
  • 1 1/2 oz dry cognac (or brandy)
  • 3/4 oz cointreau (or triple sec)
  • 3/4 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 lemon twist, as garnish

Rub the rim of a chilled cocktail glass with the lemon wedge. Discard the wedge. Rim the lip of the glass with sugar. Add the Cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker half filled with ice cubes. Cover and shake vigorously. Strain into the sugar rimmed glass. Garnish with lemon twist, expressed and dropped on top.