Easy to rustle-up, Sidecar has ruled the cocktail scene for ages worldwide

It is this time of the year again when the mornings and the evenings bring the scent of winter. Recovering from a dry and stinging hot Delhi summer, how your spirit suddenly soars with this shifting tone of nature!

This rising spirit in me also nudges me to think about spirits, certainly when I see the world go by in the evening hour from the balcony of my apartment in a high rise, where the force of the wind is welcomingly wilful, and dogs and people scurrying about under the neon lights below seem of matching height.

With the impending winter, I think of Cognac, a fine warm one at that. It is a spirit loved by many during winters, and I am no exception. Imagine your call bell at home is not working, and you are curled up in a couch with a book and a glass of rich rusty good quality cognac by the side. Won’t you feel like being at heaven’s door? Somehow, I also like the look of a cognac glass. Dainty, isn’t it?

And now that we are talking cognac, can Sidecar be far behind? Though pretty easy to rustle it up, Sidecar is a top notch classic cocktail, a constant in bar menus across the world for decades now. Said to be a gift of the French to the drinking world, Sidecar, according to some, was born in The Ritz, Paris, just after the First World War. I can’t tell you why it got such a name because there is not much written history about its origin.

Over the years, this cognac-based cocktail has undergone changes, albeit very little, say, by replacing the orange liqueur Cointreau, used in the original recipe, with Grand Marnier or Triple Ssec or even bitters.

Though it has remained a must-have in every bar, its popularity has dwindled now, beaten by classics like Martini or Manhattan. Talking of the preference of the Delhi customers, Nitin Bhushan, the bartender for the last four years at Agni, The Park, points out that very few customers at his bar order Sidecar these days. “It is such a smooth drink yet it is not as popular as say, Mojito.” He knows that Sidecar needs “a bit of newness” to scale up in the popularity chart. He says, “I have used Pisco (an amber coloured grape brandy from Peru and Chile) in it to make it taste and smell a little different. Even with Bourbon whiskey it tastes pretty good.”

Getting behind the counter to whip up Sidecar for me, Nitin chooses the original recipe. In a cocktail shaker, he pours 45 ml cognac (Martell, but you can use any good quality cognac), reminding me, “In a classic cocktail it is very important to measure exactly the amount you will use, else the taste goes for a toss.” He then meticulously measures 15 ml Cointreau and mixes it to the cognac and then squeezes a wedge of fresh lime (around 10 ml). A few vigorous shakes before he empties the concoction into a Martini glass. For garnish, he thrusts into the rim an orange wedge.

It turns out to be a rather nice pale orange hue. And the taste? Well, sip it to get transported to the good old times, when a gentleman’s word was a bond, when bards and barons in silver cufflinks lazily made smoke rings with their pipes even as a “what ho” Bertie Wooster nursed his “rummy affair” by the side.

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