Frontier Psychiatrist

Frontier Mixology, Vol. 29: The Sidecar

Posted on: November 12, 2010

Let’s be frank, it’s nearly impossible to look cool riding around in a sidecar.  Like the unicycle and the Segway, there’s just something inherently funny about the sidecar as a means of transportation.

I think I've seen these two around Brooklyn.

In fact, the more serious one tries to look, the more ridiculous he appears.  For example, trying and failing to look badass while your attaché is delivering you to an important military strategy meeting with Axis central command.  No, the sidecar fairs much better as a cocktail than as a way to get around.  With its evocative and unique name, people have generally heard of the sidecar, even if they’re not sure what’s in it.  The drink itself was purportedly invented at the Ritz Hotel in Paris during or shortly after World War I in honor of an American Army captain who toured the boulevards of the war-worn city, driven to and fro in the sidecar of a military motorcycle.  As this week marks the celebration of the armistice arrived at on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, it is only fitting to honor it with a sidecar.

Sidecar Cocktail

2 oz. cognac or good brandy

1 oz. Cointreau

½ oz. lemon juice

Shake in an iced cocktail shaker; rim a chilled cocktail glass with sugar; strain into the glass; garnish with lemon twist.

For those new to cocktails, the sidecar is a lovely introduction.  Its parts list is pretty basic, but because of its straightforward composition, the use of high quality ingredients is imperative; never use sour mix, in this drink or any other.  The sidecar is also an exceptionally well-balanced drink, with a sweet note that is inviting to those who fear classic cocktails are too astringent.  To wit, the Frontier Mixologist met up for drinks the other night at the legendary cocktail haunt, Pegu Club.  His companion could have heeded his reasonable suggestion of a sidecar, but ordered a beer instead because she thinks cocktails taste “like cough syrup.”  Alas.  Nonetheless, with its air of sophistication perhaps the sidecar need not always be goofy, but could take on connotations both romantic and urbane.

Curiously, the sidecar is also the parent of another drink, albeit one with a slightly different reputation: the margarita.  Forget about “that frozen concoctions that help you hang on” for a minute, if you swap the cognac for tequila and the lemon for lime, you’ve got yourself a classic straight up margarita.  As the theory goes, sidecars were enormously popular during Prohibition, and were served up by the gallon at numerous bars in Mexican border towns profiting from the thirst of gringos who couldn’t legally drink back home.  It was only a matter of time before the local ingredients of tequila and lime took over from the harder to obtain brandy and lemon.

Drink up,


1 Response to "Frontier Mixology, Vol. 29: The Sidecar"

[…] are those who say the ukulele is the sidecar of musical instruments: no matter what you do, it’s hard to look cool doing it with a […]

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