For someone who doesn’t drink that much, I sure have a lot of liquor on my liquor shelf. I guess I should rephrase that. For someone who drinks an a lot of wine, but not a lot of liquor, I sure have a lot of liquor on my liquor shelf.
The French don’t have anything on us Americans when it comes to drinking cocktails, although that seems to be changing a bit. Fruity, sweet drinks won’t likely catch on around here, which I’m happy about, but minty Mojitos are popular, fueled on by their love of a fascination with anything Cuban. And one of my commenters got a big laugh out of me when I was explaining in another post the lack of ice cubes in Paris, and she said, “The only time you get a lot of ice in Paris is when you order a cocktail.”
They may not do ice, but the French do have us beat in the grammar department, though, because Happy Hour is actually Happy Hours. I mean, has there ever really been a one-hour happy hour? If so, it doesn’t sound like enough time to really get happy. But cafés with signs offering cocktails get hung in the windows, Parisians are all-too happy to partake.
(Although last night I stopped in a café up in Ménilmontant and they had a sign up for a TGV, which wasn’t an ad for France’s high-speed train; it was a cocktail with just tequila, gin, and vodka. It gave me a laugh, but still, the combination didn’t make me want to order one.)
I used to love martinis (made with gin, thank you, which everyone knows are the only kind…), but since moving to France, I’ve mostly given up cocktails in my declining years. However when I was in San Francisco, one of my other commenters (thanks Dawn) told me to make sure to have a Sidecar. And when I was at Nopa, they had an armagnac Sidecar on the menu. Since I’d just returned from Cognac, I was interested in this giving one a go, Cognac or not.
(I did write to spirits expert Jason White about the San Francisco and Sidecar connection, and he was pretty baffled, as I was. I’m not sure what the connection is, but it didn’t stop me from trying one. Matt had a rum one, but wouldn’t give me a taste. So I assume that was pretty good, too.)
And yet another commenter pointed out, in one of my San Francisco posts, how un-proficient some of us in the food business are when it comes to mixing cocktails. Fair enough, since my only experience mixing drinks semi-professionally was when I was the pastry chef in a restaurant and the bartender’s girlfriend was in a car accident and I hopped behind the bar to pitch in. Seriously, I didn’t know what half of the cocktails I was mixing up were. But figured if I just made them incredibly strong, no one would complain. Which, by the way, worked very well.
A few times I’ve made Cosmopolitans at home for friends, and after a certain someone’s 67-kilo partner had half of one, he was soon was lying on the floor. So either I’m doing something right. Or something kinda wrong.
I was cleaning my liquor shelf the other day, which gave me a change to revisit some of the oddities hidden up there, like the blue Curaçao that I bought for recipe testing last year. I scoured Paris for the clear stuff, but by 7:58 pm, standing exasperated in the géant gourmet food hall of the Galleries Lafayette, I realized I just wasn’t going to find the real thing and gave in and bought went for the blue.
I used about a shot of it for the recipe I was testing and reluctantly, hoped to finish off the rest of it to plump raisins for Persimmon Bread, thinking the color would be hidden by the dark dried fruits. No such luck, as it turned out. When I began slicing the bread, I saw that the raisins had turned a iridescent, eerie neon-green. It was nothing that a smear of Madame Loïk couldn’t have hid. But I didn’t have any and had some convincing to do to get anyone to eat it. Understandably.
Then there’s the tall bottle of Amaro that I bought in Florence, thinking how nice it might be to sip bitter digestive after dinner—which I haven’t done in the four-plus years since I bought it. There’s the bottle of armagnac someone gave me as a gift that was so expensive, it’s in danger of becoming too good to use. And there’s a bottle of marsala from Italy, which is practically walking distance from here, that cost me more than three-times what it costs five thousand miles away, in California. That I’m saving as a souvenir of one of my first wtf moments.
For someone who writes and follows recipes for a living, I rarely think about following a recipe for cocktails. It just seems like drinks should be intuitive. Nevertheless, after whipping up a couple of shakers of Sidecars, I thought I’d share the recipe, since they might help you use up some of that liquor that’s sitting there, waiting to be used around your place.
So if anyone has ideas for using that nearly-full bottle of blue Curaçao, I’m all ears. (Note: I don’t drink blue cocktails. Even I have my limits.) I guess I could hope that my house cleaner might mistakenly use it for cleaning the windows. Since she’s got that impressive right hook, I’m wary of telling her what to do. So if anyone has any ideas, I’m all ears.
Makes 2 generous cocktails
Reading a bit about the drink, some folks think the original Sidecar, with equal proportions of lemon juice, orange-flavored liqueur, and Cognac, is on the sweet side. With all that lemon juice, to me, the drink is rather puckery and I tried a sip without the sugared rim and decided it’s de rigeur.
There is a Sidecar from the “English School”, which uses twice as much Cognac as the other ingredients. (The version here is sometimes referred to a “French” Sidecar, which is why I feel it’s okay to include this cocktail on my blog.) So feel free to add more Cognac to taste, if you find it sweet.
Or rim half of the glass with superfine sugar, so folks can decide if they want the sugar or not. If you don’t have superfine sugar, whiz a bit of granulated in the blender or food processor a few seconds until it’s finely-ground.
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) Grand Marnier or Cointreau
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) Cognac (or brandy)
- superfine (castor) sugar, for the rim
- 2 strips of lemon zest, for garnish
1. Dip the rims of two chilled glasses partly in superfine sugar.
2. Fill a cocktail shaker half-full with ice.
3. Add the lemon juice, Grand Marnier, and Cognac to the shaker, and shake vigorously for about ten seconds.
4. Divide the Sidecar mixture between the two glasses. Add a strip of lemon zest to each.
Related Links & Posts
Experimental Cocktail Club in Paris (Facebook Group)
Cognac Enters the Mix (Jason Wilson, Washington Post)
Cognac Enters the Mix (Jason Wilson)
52 Martinis (Paris Cocktail Blog)
Pear Sidecar (Married With Dinner)
A Lebovitz Isle (Matt Bites)