The Sidecar is an essential classic cocktail that dates back to the mid 1910s. In fact, David Embury lists it as one of the 6 basic cocktails in his famous book, Fine Art of Mixing Drinks.
Besides being an excellent cocktail, the Sidecar also has a number of famous classic variations, which allow us to again discuss the power of modifications in the taste of a cocktail.
Before talking about the classic variations, lets start with the Sidecar:
1.5oz VSOP Cognac
.75oz Lemon Juice
A simple combination of Cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice, the Sidecar manages to have a flavor that is more complex and pleasing than its simplicity might lead you to believe. The sugar rim adds to the allure and flavor, sweetening the drink as you sip.
What if we want to substitute some ingredients, or maybe add an ingredient?
Well like most things, this has been done before and there are a few classic variations you should know before venturing off on your own. We will progress through 3 variations from a simple substitution, to adding a couple ingredients in place of another, to changing the proportions of the bevarage. First up is Between the Sheets:
.75oz VSOP Cognac
.75oz Aged Rum
.75oz Lemon Juice
A simple substitution of rum for half of the cognac really makes for a different experience. While I find this one to be a little sweeter and heavier than the Sidecar and somewhat less “magical,” Between the Sheets is a very popular variation of the Sidecar and one worth knowing or at the vary least trying. To mix things up further, you could use light rum rather than aged to give a lighter flavor and give Between the Sheets a more warmer weather twist.
What about adding/substituting an ingredient?
1.5oz VSOP Cognac
.5oz Green Chartreuse
.5oz Simple Syrup
.5oz Lemon Juice
Champs Élysées swaps out Cointreau for Green Chartreuse and Simple Syrup with a slightly modified ratio to imprrove the balance of these modifications. This one takes on a really great herbal flavor from the Chartreuse but doesn’t stray so far from the original.
Another observation brought up by Champs Élysées is that sometimes modifications require retooling the ratios or maybe adding an ingredient. So if at first your variation doesn’t work out so well, try to improve the balance of the cocktail by adjusting the ratios and perhaps you may still have a hit. This has happened to me on multiple occasions. You start out with an idea that seems good, but something is a little off. After a little experimentation, the trails and errors payoff with something great.
What about using similar ingredients but drastically varying the ratios of some of the ingredients?
Sometimes the simplest thing to do is change around your proportions to vary the taste of your cocktail. A great example is Alabazam:
2oz VSOP Cognac
.25oz Lemon Juice
.25oz Simple Syrup
.25oz Angostura Bitters
First a confession, Alabazam is not a variation of the Sidecar, although the two have very similar ingredients. In fact, Alabazam was created almost forty years prior to the first reported version of the Sidecar. That being said, being so similar, it is worth discussing.
Right off the bat the most shocking thing about Alabazam is the bitters, a whole .25oz of Angostura. Needless to say, this alone will completely change the taste of the cocktail. Furthering the difference is the additional cognac and smaller amounts of the “sour” ingredients, lemon and simple syrup. Amazing though that such similar ingredients can yield a completely different cocktail based mainly on ratios.
Hopefully these simple variations on the Sidecar will help you not only add a few more classic cocktails to your repertoire, but also serve as useful examples of how to significantly change the taste of a cocktail with modifications and substitutions.