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May 2, 2009

The sidecar: Unsafe at any speed


And now, a personal confession from Midnight Sun guest poster Owl Meat Gravy:

When I was a wee lad in the Keystone state, I remember eating in mom and pop taverns with my parents.

The most memorable thing (other than "shrimp-in-a-basket")? The classic cocktail place mats.

I studied these exotic drinks since I was old enough to read. I never saw adults drink them other than in old movies. The Grasshopper, Gin Rickey, Manhattan, Mai Tai, Singapore Sling, Old Fashioned, and the Sidecar.

It just so happens that in this month's issue of Happening Dude magazine, it says that the Sidecar is the hot new drink for the coolaratti.

Properly constructed, this drink should be made with cognac or brandy, Cointreau, and fresh lemon juice. The problem is that most bartenders will look at you funny, check their Old Mr. Boston book, and make it with brandy, triple sec and (ugh) sour mix ...

I have a constitutional prohibition against mixing cognac with anything other than saliva, so a decent brandy is just fine. California brandy is good, but I like to use a Spanish solera for a little extra kick. 

Some people use Grand Marnier instead of Cointreau, I think Cointreau has a lighter touch. Properly made, it is a great cocktail, with the dominant flavors blending into a synthesis of refreshment. Nice.
My friend Balthazar says it's like a brandy margarita, which is true. He also says that aliens built the pyramids with monkey slaves. Even H. L. Mencken praised it as one of the few cocktails of any merit. 

So trendsetters, join the toolaratti and be the first to annoy your favorite bartender by making him squeeze lemon slices for an authentic sidecar.

(Photo by Getty Images)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:30 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays


I have a constitutional prohibition against mixing cognac with anything other than saliva

Well said my good man. It is most distracting to see people drink cognac and Coca Cola on ice ... in a snifter. Most uncivilized.

I've said it before here, but I'll say it again: the Sidecar is how I test a bar. It's as classic as a Martini or a the bartender had better know how to make it.

If not—we all have our blind spots; I'm an English major who's never read Moby Dick—the bartender can win me over just by saying, "You know, I oughtta know how to make that and it's a shame I don't." D*mn right you should, and you just doubled your tip.

Sidecars are best when made with Metaxa and served in a sugar rimmed martini glass. I'm girlie. I like things like that.

Nothing says you've hit your target audience like a comment from someone named Lord Marmalade. I imagine he's a Pimm's man.

Hey Patchen, what percentage of bartenders in Baltimore do you think know how to make a sidecar without looking it up? It seems pretty low to me. Do you have a preference on ingredients? Any places that do it particularly well? A Negroni is a good test too.

Kimmer, sugar-rimmed glass? Ew, not for me, Metaxa? Isn't that sort of awful? I tried it once and don't have a pleasant memory. To each her own.

The bartender test that a surpising number fail hard on is "Jameson's neat." Blank stare. Response: "Do you mean straight up?" Fail. Or putting whiskey in a snifter.

OMG, dare I ask where in the Keystone state? If you prefer not to be specific, can you narrow it down to a region?

Don't tell me YumPo is a fellow Keystoner? I grew up in Pretzel City, Lat. 40.3497, Long. -75.9158 How's that for specific? That's the location of the famous sandbox picture.

A great place to get away from.

Yes, I am. And if I told you exactly where, I can imagine the comments that would result, especially on this blog (although safer than many of the others, but not by much). Born and raised, but left when I went off to post-grad school. No jobs at home when I graduated so I ended up here. All of my family and relatives are still there. I still bleed the colors. Always will.

So, lemme guess YumPo. Was a Rumspringa involved? I hope there's no shunning when you return for holidays.

Rumspringa? Great. Well Yum certainly has the meat preparation skills of an Amish girl, but I somehow doubt it.

Was a Rumspringa involved? I hope there's no shunning when you return for holidays.

I liked that a lot, The Beav. You made akvavit come out of my nose.

Hey what's Owl Meat doing here? That's tricky sending us away from D@L. Elizabeth will be mad.

Mmm.. Cointreau. But with brandy? Sounds like the best or worst lemonade ever.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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