26 June 2012

An Affordable Cocktail

Cocktails are fun, and with the resurgence of interest in classic cocktails these last few years, they're everywhere. They can be as expensive as they are delicious, requiring all manner of exotic cordials and arcane preparation techniques. But they don't have to be. The most classic of classics tend to contain only a liquor (or two) plus something else, maybe a piece of fruit, and a cocktail shaker. Such is the Sidecar:
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.

18 comments:

Sheik of Araby said...

Maybe Mrs. G likes your lips all sticky?

Don't rule it out, is all I'm saying...

Giuseppe said...

I'll thank you to leave my wife out of this.

Benjamin said...

A Mint Julep is an incredibly refreshing cocktail and another one meaning you can drink brown spirits into summer. Hard to nail at home well I've found so far (having only just recently discovered the delights of the Julep).

I find a whiskey sour quite refreshing too.

And the simple old whiskey and ginger with a little squeeze of lime (make it a long drink with a lot of ice and it's totally summery).

Ben
www.benjamintimmins.com

Roger v.d. Velde said...

My local Gall & Gall (that's in the Netherlands) was doing Père-Magloire v.s.o.p. for €24 a bottle around Christmas time - it's normally near 40 - and I bought two. And now I have another interesting drink to make with it. Nice photo you took there as well.

Hennessey is hardly 'swill'!

Christopher Redgate said...

I'm going to have one of those this evening for sure. Sounds very appealing to me, thanks!

whatbettertime said...

Thanks for this, Giuseppe. The timing couldn't have been better. I've been looking for a summah cocktail. I'll definitely give this a try.

Giuseppe said...

Roger,

Maybe not swill, I grant you, but certainly overpriced.

Benjamin,

I have yet to nail the perfect julep at home myself, but that won't stop me from trying.

james at 10engines said...

am all over this. save me one... of each.

Thomas said...

In total agreement about small cocktails- Try and find a civilized martini glass- I've seen 14 0Z martini glasses!If one has a 14OZ glass of any sort the natural tendancy is to fill it up- which ends up in a messy party at best- keep 'em small

TRVS said...

This sounds delicious...I think I had one (before I was legally entitled) at a family wedding a loooooong time ago...Thomas~drop into a local Goodwill or Thrift Shop, I've scored loads of traditional martini/cocktail glasses...no one wants them because they're not supersized and you can get them for practically nothing.

sell wow account said...

cool! *runs off to look for the ingredients*

David V said...

My wife thanks you. We had them last night after dinner.

C.L. Young said...

Thank you Giuseppe! I've always been one to save my brandy for the autumn and winter months. I will certainly have to try this recipe and kick back to some Miles Davis on the patio! Sounds perfect to help fight off the Texas heat and more upscale than the "cold beer" standard.
Of interest to me are the specific brands you pointed out. I hope that I can find them in Dallas. I am always in search of the better bargain for the best price! Again, thanks for this posting!

Mr. Sidetable said...

I second the suggestion to look for cocktail glasses in thrift stores. I'd been looking for a set of cocktail coupes (in the 4-5 oz. range) for a long time, to no avail. I went to a local thrift store (Savers, I think), and had at least 5 complete sets to choose from.

Aside from being a terrible idea from the standpoint of remaining upright, it's impossible to keep a drink in an 11 or 14 oz. martini glass cold long enough to actually enjoy it.

oldmoney said...

I created with an Italian orange liqueur and it is a fantastic drink. Thanks for the recipe!

Nicola Imbracsio said...

May I put a plug in for a local shop? The Boston Shaker (in Davis Square) has an excellent range of new, traditional-sized cocktail glasses (including coupes, which are super sexy!). They are not vintage-- but they only run about $6-$8 a glass. Salute!

Mr. Sidetable said...

Saw the Bouchard brandy for $10.99 at Yankee Spirits in S. Attleboro this weekend--thanks for the tip!

Anonymous said...

VSOP--very superior old pale, by the way, not "special" is enforced in Cognac, but means nothing at all when attached to something labelled only as brandy. Not to say there's anything wrong with this brandy, but if it's dark, don't kid yourself that the color is from wood for $12.95. Caramel is everywhere--adjusting colo9r in most blended Scotch, and supplying the gold color in gold Tequila.