Mixology Monday: A Sidecar, But With Brandy

by Matt Robold on January 14, 2008

This may go down in history as the worst MXMO entry ever.  Here at RumDood.com I like to make sure that “swinging for the fences” is always the goal…so if I’m going to be bad, I want to be really bad.

This month’s MXMO topic is brandy.

I’ll confess, I’m not nearly the brandy aficionado that I pretend to be with rum.  I don’t drink it on a regular or even semi-regular basis, and I don’t keep the liquor cabinet well-stocked with anything other than flavored brandies that I use primarily for cooking or as secondary ingredients in tiki drinks.

Upon finding out that the fine folks over at Sloshed had chosen brandy as our topic for this month, I started trying to devise a drink or drink list to work from.  Mrs. Dood suggested that I “think outside of the box” and do a write-up about one of my brandy recipes for cooking.  Perhaps I should have gone that route.

My plans for spending Sunday night mixing away were trounced by a new group event which saw me in the Sutra Lounge in Newport Beach.  Frantic for something to write about, I figured I’d go in with a drink or two in mind and see what the bartenders could do for me.  My Mixology Monday research returned with mixed results.

I was impressed with the bar’s available rums.  I mean, I’m a rum guy, so I notice when a bar has Matusalem Gran Reserva and Appleton Estate V/X.  I figured I’d start the night by leaning on the bartender while it was early and not as busy, so I asked for her to make me something with rum and brandy.  Normally I try not to ever do something like that because I know it just makes their job harder, but I figured it might be a good way to find something new, and it wasn’t busy yet, so maybe I wouldn’t frazzle my bartender too much.

She hustled off, and started pulling bottles from shelves and pouring into the shaker, and next thing I knew I had a salted glass in front of me with a drink inside containing orange and lime wedges.  As I paid the tab, my bartender remarked, “I basically made a sidecar, but with brandy added.”

The confused me.  Sidecars are supposed to have brandy.  I thought perhaps she had just misspoken and had meant to say she had made a sidecar, but with rum added.  I took a sip, and was struck with fruity-sugary-saltiness.  If there was brandy in that glass, it was hidden well, and enough salt had fallen from the rim of the glass and into the cocktail that it started overpowering the rest of the drink. 

When my bartender passed by again, I inquired as to what was in the “sidecar” in my hands.  The ingredients included Barcardi O, sour mix, triple-sec, and a splash of brandy – finished off with an orange wedge and a lime wedge…all in a salt-rimmed glass.  It wasn’t a horrible drink, but it wasn’t a good one either.  The Dood was disappointed.

Undaunted, I returned to the bar 1 Sutra Rum Sidecar (I can’t call it a real sidecar now can I?) and a few glasses of water later to try for what I think my bartender was trying to make for me with her sidecar experiment: a sidecar with rum added, more commonly known as a “Between The Sheets”.  When I asked for a BTS, my bartender started off, and then returned to confirm what was in it.  Luckily, I had the recipe saved on my cell phone for just such an occasion:

Between The Sheets

1 oz. Brandy
1 oz. Cointreau or Triple-Sec
1 oz. Light Rum
1 oz. Lemon Juice

Combine all into a shaker with ice, shake, and strain into cocktail glass.

For the rum, I requested 10 Cane so that I could avoid the ignominy of receiving more Barcardi.  I didn’t make any real request for the brandy due to my general ignorance on the topic.  In retrospect, I should have done a little more research on that for this article.  The drink wasn’t bad.  It was tart – as you would expect considering the ingredients – with a nice finish…although I would have been happier with just a tad more brandy or a little sugar to balance the tartness a bit.

At the rate of $10 per drink, my experimenting seemed like it might get a little expensive, and I was supposed to be the driver in a few hours, so I drank about half of my BTS and then stuck to water for the rest of the evening until I got home.

Once home, I decided to try one more drink.

Cuban Cocktail #2 (according to my little red bartending guide)

1.5 oz Brandy
.5 oz Apricot Brandy
1 tsp white rum
Juice of 1/2 lime

This looked promising…but only a teaspoon of rum?  Tsk tsk, no tsp tsp.

Dood’s Cuban Cocktail #2

1.5 oz Brandy
.5 oz Apricot Brandy
.5 oz White Rum (Oronoco in this case)
Juice of 1/2 lime

Combine all in shaker with ice, shake, strain into cocktail glass.

This was good.  It was very good.  The lime juice gave it a similar tartness to the other drinks of the evening, but this was better balanced with the vanilla of the Oronoco and the sweetness of the apricot brandy.  It still could use a bit, so I added a splash of blood-orange bitters…which is becoming rather habitual for me.  Pretty soon I’ll be added bitters to my tea in the mornings.  I thought this drink was the winner for the evening.  The flavors were in much better harmony, and (with the exception of the apricot brandy) the ingredients were from a much higher shelf than what I had been getting in the bar (my own fault – if you don’t ask for top shelf, you won’t get it).  This was actually the perfect cocktail to end my evening a scant 3 hours before I had to arise and come in to work today.

{ 1 comment }

Milicent January 30, 2008 at 9:59 pm

I’ll be interested to read your research re brandy. I know nothing about it other than many recipes I would like to try call for it. So, I’ll be looking back here for information and recommendations.

Thumbs up on the site. You are doing a great job. Thanks.

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