In its initial formulation it was equal parts brandy, lemon and Cointreau. Completely unpalatable to modern palates.

With these initial bizarre proportions, and the fact that every bartender worth their salt knows of it, (but have likely never willingly drank one), the Sidecar finds itself in a unique position. Venerated but ignored.

Joaquin Simo is the most famous contemporary bartender to proselytize and modernize the Sidecar. He recommends a Cognac, Pierre Ferrand 1840 specifically, increases it to 2 ounces, with ¾ ounce each of lemon and dry curacao. For balance, and “mouthfeel,” he adds a teaspoon of 2:1 demerara syrup. The syrup ensures the drink is not overly tart, as the curacao he uses, a Pierre Ferrand product as well, is quite dry.

Brandy is, as I referenced in a previous article, one of those spirits that really can’t be futzed around with. Quality is necessary in a brandy, especially in a brandy forward cocktail. None of the well or entry-level products will do.

Similarly, Cointreau, once an almost omnipresent ingredient in drinks has found itself shut out of the conversation due to, at least in Oregon, pricing.



I began by pulling the brandy back to 1.5 ounces using the Cognac specified by Simo. But the end product wasn’t balanced; the Cointreau was the showcase, not the Cognac. I backed off to the more affordable Maison Rouge VSOP Cognac and increased it to 2 ounces. It was much better. Rounder, fuller and much more of a cocktail showcasing brandy. It could have ended there. But you know how this goes ...

In the book "Drinking the Devil’s Acre," Duggan McDonnell offers several recipes for “house spirits.” In short, he blends his own house whiskey, house gin, house vermouth, etc. This in theory offers a versatility to his bar as well as unique spirit compounds.

His brandy blend was what I sought at this venture. Could I make a “brandy blend” that could perhaps allow me to craft a worthy rendition of a Sidecar? His blend calls for a majority of VS brandy, (brandy’s are rated on the scale VS, VSOP and XO, with each increment indicating an increase in time in the barrel and supposedly quality, and, of course, cost), and small amounts of Armagnac (brandy on crack), Pineau (young brandy mixed with grape juice), Pisco (a floral, un-aged South American brandy) and Amontillado sherry. I didn’t have any Pineau, so I upped the ante with Calvados.

His recipe calls to be allowed to sit for one week before tasting. What I tasted on the second day and the seventh were roughly identical. But identically delicious. It had far more depth than the Maison Rouge Cognacs on their own, but, because of the scant use of the other ingredients, would allow me to not break the bank to make the drink.

I made a Sidecar with my house brandy blend and found it delicious. The grape, lemon and orange flavors combined deliciously into a boozy but fun cocktail perfect for the coming fall weather.

Combine in a tin, add ice, shake, fine strain into a large coupe. Spritz an orange zest on top and discard.

Joe Kiefer-Lucas is co-owner of Bar Purlieu, a modern French restaurant and cocktail bar at 1530 Willamette St. Find weekly specials at barpurlieu.com.

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