When temperatures rise, too many people retreat from all manner of brown liquor in favor of gin and vodka. While I certainly enjoy my fair share of Tom Collins or simple gin and tonic of a hot day, I see no need to give up on the brown stuff entirely. You only have to know how to make it cold and rereshing. The Sidecar, a favorite of old Papa Hemmingway, proves that even brandy can be refreshing (or something).
Traditionally, a Sidecar is made with Cognac, but that can get expensive. Even cheaply made mass produced swill like Hennessy cost upward's of $30 these days, pricey for a mixing spirit. I've recently discovered Bouchard Napoleon V.S.O.P. French brandy, $12.99 retail in the Boston area. It's not Cognac, but it is, dare I say it, better than Hennessy or Courvoisier, even straight in a snifter. Imminently more delicate, not full of caramel color, and older, being a proper v.s.o.p. (very special old pale for the newbies). It's not easy to spot so if you should be lucky enough to see some buy more than one bottle.
The second ingredient is an orange liqueur, usually Grand Marnier or Cointreau. Again, two fairly pricey ingredients, but once again, I seem to have found the antidote. Torres Orange is a clear liqueuer from Spain made from Valencia oranges, same as Cointreau. In fact, it tastes very much like Contreau. At $19.99 a bottle, it's nearly half the price. Again, if you can find it, buy more than one. It works in Sidecars, Margaritas, Mimosas. or any other drink that calls for triple sec. It's even pretty good on its own as a tall drink with club soda and lime.
The third ingredient is lemon juice. Lemons are 2/$1.00 at the grocery store.
Proprtions vary from recipe to recipe, and personal taste has more than a little to do with it. Here's how I like them:
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine:
3 parts brandy
1 part orange liqueuer
juice of 1/2 lemon
shake well, strain into a Champagne saucer
Some recipes call for a sugared rim, but I find the drink sweet enough. Besides, sugared rims make my lips all sticky (gross). A martini glass will do for serving, but I prefer a Champagne saucer. Its a little more old timey, plus it looks cool (see photo). Whatever glass you choose, the drink should be small. For one thing, it's best when its cold, and big drinks end to get warm. For another thing, how the hell much brandy do you really need to drink before dinner, you savage? The result should be a drink that is rich and sweet, with enough tartness to provide a fresh balance, yummy and appetizing while you wait for the steak to be done on the grill.
And you thought brandy was only good for warming you up on a cold night. P'shaw.