— Jenny Neill

House Cocktails: For the Acid Hounds

I am a sommelier. Not only am I a sommelier, I am among those restaurant wine-slingers who consider themselves “acid hounds.” Alcohol, tannins, and viscosity in a wine of high intensity flavors is often not enough to be able to pair it with food. Such wines can be great fun to sip on by themselves. But to go with many sauced, rich, or spicy dishes, a wine needs acidity to give it a little lift. Liking that brightness is why I also like sour drinks. And why the Sidecar is in the top five for cocktails I make at home.

Flaming Orange Peel

Photo courtesy of Mike Russell. All rights reserved.

Many others have looked for the origins of this cocktail. Most sources suggest it came into vogue towards the end of the first World War. A place owned by an American ex-pat named Harry who reassembled a bar from Manhattan in Paris claims to have invented it. But references to this libation that were in print before Harry’s New York Bar published their recipe suggest that claim may not be true.

A drink with as long a history as this one is of course a subject of debate. Most bartenders list brandy and Cointreau as essential. Lemon juice, or sometimes orange, is responsible for the acidity that makes this a sour. The proportions and garnishes are where a mixologist’s style starts to creep in.

Personally, I prefer my Sidecars without a sugar rim whether served up or in a rocks glass. A twist of lemon or orange as garnish is A-OK. I noticed some recipes, notably one published by Dale DeGroff, that suggests using a flamed orange peel. So, tonight we tried it that way. Those hands in that photo? Yup, that’s me. Cheers!