The Sidecar

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H.L. Mencken called the martini the only American invention as perfect as a sonnet, but I think the Sidecar goes one better: It's as engrossing and enrapturing as the Great American novel.

Cue the Jay-Z soundtrackbandwagon sound effects Jazz Age music -- it's The Great Gatsby week at The Five O'Clock Cocktail Blog!

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Honestly, few cocktails rival the singular, joyful, I'd-know-it-blindfolded taste of a Sidecar. It's so much more than the sum of its triumvirate parts. How one drink with only three ingredients -- cognac, triple sec, lemon juice -- can prove so palate-memorable is beyond me and always has been. How that same drink has stood the test of time so well, having been invented in either Paris or London during WWI, only boggles the mind further. Most Sidecar tales note that the bar patron for whom the drink was made was an American officer stationed overseas during the war, so like the Martini, we Americans can at least claim some bit of its heritage. Also, kinda like Gatsby -- erm, Fitzgerald, erm, Gatsby -- with the pond-traipsing and the Paris in the roaring 20s and all that Jazz Age, right?

(By the way, I should mention that I've tagged all of the blog's appropriately Gatsby-esque cocktails for easy perusing here. Bonne fete!)

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Although it contains more than a splash of lemon juice, the Sidecar reminds me in flavor and look of A-list, all-time-classic cocktails that are liquor-only: the Manhattan, the Negroni and, mais oui, the Martini. Visually, it bears a beautiful translucency and a melon-gold-sunrise hue (as unique as its taste) that, I mean -- the Sidecar is a one-glance, one-sip, complete endorphin rush, is what I'm trying to say.

One potential peccadillo I must own up to here. I prefer my Sidecars with a granulated sugar rim. That may sound sidecrass to some, but let me assure you that this cocktail's overall flavor profile is only buoyed by the piquant, saccharine sting of some table sugar. (Yes, I even prefer it to my ballyhooed favey fave, the confectioner's sugar rim.)

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As you can see in the pic above, I got a little Art Deco-playful with my sugared rim for the sake of the Gats. Isn't there a moment in one of the Great Gatsby trailers when Carey Mulligan's pearls go flying? There we go; we're sipping our Sidecars, we're riding shotgun with one of the great American love storeis and like F. Scott, the pearls are tripping in the wind and we're riding high on life.

The Sidecar

2 ounces Cognac Salignac

1/2 ounce triple sec

1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice (plus a little extra for stickying up the rim of your glass)

Granulated sugar, for the rim

First, prepare your glass: Dip the rim of a cocktail or martini glass into a shallow saucer of lemon juice. (Or, alternatively, run a cut lemon along the lip of the glass.) Then dip or roll your sticky'd-up rim in a second saucer of granulated sugar. Set glass aside. Combine three liquid ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for about 20 seconds. Strain into your glass.

Tasting Notes

The Sidecar is so foolproof, you can more than get away with no-name triple sec and whatever-name cognac, both of which I've used here.

To make the more dramatic sugared rim I mentioned and pic'd above, take a cut lemon half and use it to sort of draw a big, fat, diagonal stripe on a portion of your martini glass' bowl. Then roll that portion of the bowl in a saucer of sugar.

Yes, I know a round-bowled cocktail couple would've been more Gastby-era apropos than a V-shaped martini glass. I like the V's for doing sugared stuff.

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The Aviator No. 1

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I'd like to talk about cocktail geekdom in this post, which I realize is like talking about the pink elephant we're all seeing in the room.

When Googling "aviator cocktail," one of the top search results is this 2008 story from the NYT's Dining section entitled "A Brotherhood Formed with Cocktails and Ice." While the boys'-clubbish headline does make me wince (here's one occasion where I'm all for a "personhood" amendment; how about "camaraderie," Gray Lady?) the story tickles my historical fancy, as I feel like it's sort of the ur-trend piece about us modern-day cocktailians (as one of those quoted in the piece preferred to be called, rather than "cocktail geek").

A recipe for the Aviation Cocktail No. 1 is one of two that accompany the piece. Note that I just wrote Aviation Cocktail No. 1, not Aviator Cocktail No. 1. [Inner cocktail geek jolted awake by persnickety clarification.] The latter is actually more obscure, it seems, and therefore much harder to come by online. [Geek full of pride for self, knows more obscure cocktail knowledge than most, is so cool!] And as the numerical nomenclature suggests, both the Aviation Cocktail and the Aviator Cocktail come in more than one accepted form. [Geeeeeekkkkyyyeeeeaaaahhhhh!]

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The difference between Aviation No. 1 and Aviation No. 2 is creme de violette. While both are considered "vintage" tipples, I guess even back in the day -- a day perhaps as far back as 1916, as an Aviation No. 1 recipe can be found in Recipes for Mixed Drinks, published in that year -- creme de violette was hard to come by, as Aviation No. 2 omits it outright. This is not a bad thing, I'd say, as what's left sans creme is gin, Luxardo and lemon juice, a dangerously drinkable trifecta. [Reminds geek of geek's own, French Gimlet-esque recipe. Geek so money and don't even know it. Why geek talk like Cookie Monster? GEEK SMASH!]

The Aviator No. 1 builds on that heady trinity and adds creme de cassis -- perhaps to replace the original's creme de violette with a more commonly found ingredient? -- and egg white. While the egg white surely does it job and makes the drink damn good, I can't give you an historically justified reason for it. [Geek sad.]

An as long as I'm now gonna go ahead and deflate my inner geek ego, I have never, ever in my life managed to taste a drop of, or even find a bottle of, creme de violette. I think it's like the Godot of cocktail ingredients.

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The Aviator No. 1

(You can find this recipe or something similar in Difford's Encyclopedia of Cocktails, as well as my own The Big Book of Martinis for Moms)

2 ounces dry gin

1/2 ounce Luxardo maraschino liqueur

1/4 ounce creme de cassis

1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

Raw egg white (say, the amount in a medium-sized egg)

Combine gin, Luxardo, lemon juice and egg white in an ice-less cocktail shaker. Shake for about 20 seconds. Next, add ice to fill, cap shaker again and shake for another 20-ish seconds. Strain into a chilled martini glass. To finish, pour your quarter-ounce of creme de cassis into the center of the glass; it will sink to the bottom of the glass' V-shaped bowl and give the drink a layered look.

Tasting Notes

For extra egg-white froth, drop the coiled wire from a tktk strainer into your cocktail shaker for the first shake.

Difford says the drink tastes better when you forsake the layered look and shake the creme de cassis with the rest of the ingredients. Whatever, geek.

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Lemon Raspberry Mint Ouzo-Ade

Last week:

PhoBlograpHusband: "What do you want to do for our [second] anniversary [on June 5]?"

Blogtender: "Let's, like -- let's go out and see Montreal, some part of the city we keep saying we should see but haven't yet. Not anything too crazy, obvs [because I'm seven months pregnant] but something different."

PhoBlograpHusband: "Yeah, we need to get off our couch this summer."

Two nights ago:

Blogtender: "You know what I really want to do for our anniversary? I want to make cocktails and eat junk food and watch TV. On our couch."

Ah, yes, while I believe the traditional second-anniversary gift is something like clocks or coffee or leather, chez Lorre it was a much more sublime trifecta. Smiley face-shaped chicken tenders and Mad Men (we just subscribed to this season on iTunes, NO SPOILERS LA LA LA LA) and, among other libations, this Lemon Raspberry Mint Ouzo-Ade.

This is my second in what will hopefully turn out to be a long and languid series of posts about what to do with ouzo. I swear, Jesus sneaks into my liquor cabinet when I'm not looking and blesses my ouzo stash, because no matter how much I pour the stuff I can't seem to make a dent in it. And as I've said before, my natural inclination is to not want to make a dent in it. It's not my favorite liqueur.

But I had pulled a recipe from Martha Stewart for Lemon Ouzo-Ade, which necessitated making your own lemon simple syrup (steeping with zest) in addition to freshly squeezed lemon juice. We tried cheating this with an organic lemonade Sean had picked up on sale at the supermarket (it's really good and light and not syrupy; I've been drinking it straight all day), first going with equal parts arak* and lemonade.

Blech. See, this is what I can't stand about ouzo (arak, whatever), it's sooo overpowering. It takes over a glass like nobody's business. It's not necessarily strong in alcohol-y-ness but it's way too much  flavor-wise. Where does ouzo get off?

Luckily, raspberries were also on sale this week, and we're back to buying (hopefully soon growing) mint now that it's summer again. All that in addition to the lemon put up enough of a fight against the ouzo flavor that it finally backed down and agreed to play nice. The resulting ade possessed a nice, rounded coalition of tastes. All the flavors came through on their own, distinct merits while meshing at the same time.

We also got one more thing "accomplished" yesterday: Finished our little happy-hour patio in the backyard. Another traditional second-anniversary gift is his-and-hers green and blue spray paint...

Lemon Raspberry Mint Ouzo-Ade

(Loosely inspired by this Martha Stewart recipe)

2 ounces Arak Razzouk

At least 4 ounces Santa Cruz Organic Lemonade

Small handful of fresh mint leaves, plus a sprig for garnish

About 3 large raspberries

Pinch of granulated sugar

Muddle mint and raspberry in the bottom of a Mason jar, first sprinkling sugar on them to act as an abrasive. Fill with ice cubes and add arak (or ouzo; see Tasting Notes); fill with lemonade. Garnish with a fresh mint sprig.

Tasting Notes

*The Ouzo/Arak Refresher Course: Ouzo is a Greek aperitif flavored with anise. Arak is basically the Lebanese name for the same liqueur. I use them interchangeably in cocktail-making. Arak's usually a little cheaper, if harder to find.

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The Stanley Cocktail

This is gonna be one of those babbling brook o'consciousness posts I write from time to time, lending special credence to the word "babbling."

Sean and I made this cocktail a couple weeks ago -- before my Moms swooped into town for a week-long six-day (she'll correct me in an e-mail if I don't do it now) stay. Why don't I cocktail *more* when hosting family? God knows I need it badly-er during such times. Oh, right. I'm up the spout. Good thing that I don't forget that too often.

Anyway, my home office is also our guest room, so when we've got folks staying here I basically don't write, don't work, don't check e-mails, and generally grow more and more discomboobulated and unmoored from real life. Which is probably why I sound the way I sound right now. Me no typie so good when brain cloudy with word farts what is thesaurus?

So, the Stanley! Why did we make the Stanley? We made the Stanley because we had lemon juice about to turn in our fridge and because after many sadistic false starts, Mother Nature has finally gotten her big, compostable ass into gear up here and delivered a proper Montreal spring. (I am the last person who should be making fun of other women's fat asses at this point in my life/pregnancy, but she is not a real person so she can suck it.) The Stanley, rather audaciously, combines gin and rum, two liquors that a) you rarely see mixed, yet b) speak to the same joyous thermometer creep that ought to be celebrated with a proper cocktail, preferably including them. Grenadine and lemon juice take away from that audacity, make it more like the Banality of Cherry Coke than the Audacity of Hope (the Audacity of Hooch?) but we decided to give the Stanley a go all the same.

We got the Stanley from our trusty-dusty Old Mr. Boston Official Bartenders Guide. Sometimes this book -- as much as I insist upon treating it with reverence, for it is really old and its starchy pages smell wonderfully like pickled dust -- is like a big clusterwuh? Like when it gives you a girly-ass drink called the Stanley. Who invented this shit, or at least named it that? It is very pretty, though. In fact, I bet if I just keep looking at those pics above my head fog will lift before long...

Every time I say "the Stanley" in my head, I picture two things in quick succession. One, Mrs. Roper. Two, Pretzel Day.

I like Pretzel Day...

The Stanley Cocktail

(as per the Old Mr. Boston Official Bartenders Guide)

1 ounce Bombay Dry Gin

1 ounce Bacardi

1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 ounce grenadine

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into chilled cocktail or coupe glass.

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The Honeymoon

Do you ever wonder how so many cocktails are invented and everyone keeps them all straight -- or doesn't? Like how you can consult one Very Trustworthy Published Source and get Recipe A for a cocktail of some historical note, and then you reference Another Such Source and Recipe B is variegated enough that you're like, huh? Because if roads and bridges, whatever the recipe is for making them is, if those had been so casually bandied about we'd all be geographically stranded at best and dead from falling asphalt at worst.

Sometimes I think about those things. I thought about them recently while we were mixing Honeymoons. Doing so was actually the PhoBlograpHusband's idea, since we recently acquired our first-ever bottle of Applejack. We got Laird's, natch, because JERZEEEEE! (Like Laird's, Sean and I are from New Jersey.)

Anyway, here are different historical factoids about Honeymoons you can choose to accept or ignore at will, because apparently everybody else has:

- The Honeymoon was created in the 1930s in "a long since departed New York bar called Brown Derby."

- Or, the Honeymoon "is one of the signature cocktails from the Brown Derby in Hollywood that was probably featured alongside other 1930s legends."

- The cocktail also goes by The Farmer's Daughter.

- It is made with raw egg white, or not. Or, it is made with lemon juice, or not. Basically, there are permutations with and without either or both. ("Even if you are right, that'll be one plus one plus two plus one not one plus TWO plus one plus one.")

The morals of the story: Fobody's nerfect. The world is a strange and muddled place. Let's shut up and drink already.

The Honeymoon

(this is the recipe we like best for it)

2 ounces Laird's Applejack

1/2 ounce Benedictine

1/2 ounce triple sec

1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

Lemon peel, to garnish

Combine all liquid ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with lemon peel.

Tasting Notes

I am sure this tastes ah-MA-zing with an ounce of raw egg white as well. If you go this route, do a dry shake (in the shaker, all liquid ingredients, no ice) before your wet (with ice) one.

The Chow.com iteration of the recipe swaps in apple slices for lemon peel on the garnish, but then again, they also don't call for lemon juice. Just FYI.

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