I had originally wanted to feature the Brandy Crusta for the Drink of the Week, but the key to that cocktail is getting a full peel of a lemon to sit just right—like a skirt—around the inside of a wine glass. Actually, my best wine glass was too tall for this, and a cocktail coupe was too wide at the rim for the full peel to sit properly, and other glasses looked strange and. . . well, you get the idea. I just didn't feel like I had the right glass for the Crusta, and believe me when I tell you that I have a lot of cocktail glassware! In the end, I decided that if I was having trouble showcasing the right glass, I could hardly expect my readers to have an easier time. Besides, I couldn't figure out how one would drink the Brandy Crusta with this giant lemon peel in the way, so I switched gears and went with the Sidecar instead.
As it turns out, the Sidecar owes it's existence to the Brandy Crusta. The recipes are very similar and most cocktail historians can document the evolution of the Brandy Crusta to the Sidecar and eventually to the Margarita. The Brandy Crusta is not as well known today, but the Sidecar is a sublime classic. That means you can order it just about anywhere. The trouble is that you rarely find one that's made properly. Most establishments fail to use fresh ingredients opting for sour mix instead. I've even had bartenders use bottled lime cordial! Try making this simple cocktail at home and you will understand why it deserves a permanent place on your house menu.
2 oz cognac
1 oz Cointreau
.5 oz lemon juice
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice and shake to chill. Strain into a sugar-rimmed cocktail glass and serve.
One of the elements the Sidecar inherited from the Brandy Crusta is the sugar crusted glass. Rimming a cocktail glass with sugar is a simple matter, but the technique you use will affect your results. Some bartenders use a rimming tray to wet the lip of the glass and dunk it into sugar. This method gets sugar on both the inside and outside of the rim, and I don't like that. Bits of sugar fall into your cocktail. This changes the sweetness of the drink and looks messy. I rim glasses on the outside only. Since you are using fresh lemon juice to make the drink, use a slice to wet the very edge of the rim. Holding the glass upside down, rub the open slice of the lemon around the outside of the glass. Then, spoon sugar over the edge and let it collect on the wet rim, rotating the glass as you go. When you are done, flip the glass over and let it rest a minute. This will allow the lemon juice dry and the sugar will stay put.
Once your glass is ready, it's time to mix the ingredients. You should use a nice brandy or cognac to make this drink. Hennessy works well. Add the Cointreau—a premium triple sec. It goes a long way toward making this cocktail delicious. Finally, squeeze some of that lemon that you used to do the rim, and you are ready to shake. Add ice and shake very hard until chilled, then strain into your rimmed cocktail glass and serve.
There are many variations on this drink that are usually adjustments to the proportions. The idea is to taste yours and decide if it's too sweet or sour. Having the perfect balance between the flavor of the brandy, the sourness of the lemon and the sweet orange liqueur makes all the difference in the world. As always, taste it and adjust if necessary.