Here’s a cocktail with a solid 100 years on the clock. Created in Paris (Harry’s New York Bar and the Paris Ritz Hotel both claim the honour) during the first world war, legend has it that it was the tipple of choice of an army officer who used to travel around in a motorcycle sidecar. At the time such a thing was no doubt considered a bit unusual if not downright eccentric and hence the drink found its name. Consisting originally of equal parts Cognac, lemon juice and Cointreau (known as the French recipe) the Sidecar was later converted to a 2:1:1 ratio (known as the English recipe). But using either of those old school recipes results in a very tart and bracing drink, moderated only slightly by a sugared rim. It does make me wonder if Cointreau was sweeter in the past than it is now. More modern bartenders have brought the drink into a more pleasing balanced form by adding a little more sweetness and – usually – omitting the sugar from the edge of the glass. I think the new version really is a thing of decadent delight even if it’s really just a brandy sour at heart. Choice of brandy is key to a good Sidecar and a bona fide French Cognac of at least VS level is the minimum requirement. Go VSOP by all means as the extra smoothness will do no harm. Cognac is a delightful spirit to mix with, almost always resulting in a rich and velvety experience, and the Sidecar is the perfect place to begin.
1.5oz / 45ml Cognac (I used Courvoisier VS).
0.75oz / 22.5ml fresh lemon juice.
0.75oz / 22.5ml Cointreau (you could also try other orange liqueurs).
0.25oz / 7.5ml simple syrup* (1:1).
Shake well with ice and double strain into a chilled champagne coupé.
Toast Captain X – his name lost to history – and his three-wheeled cocktail quest.
*Skip the syrup element to taste of the old school version.