What’s Shaking: A sidecar named Desire

Laura Macfehin deals with the humid heat by mixing up her favourite 1920s tipple.

Stop chewing on your swizzle sticks – here’s what I’m drinking at the moment. The recipe for my current tipple is usually equal parts what there is left in the house/what I’m in the mood for/what the weather is like. At the moment it is summer at the bottom of the South Pacific and I have a bottle of Cointreau in the house so sidecars it is!

First things first

Go ahead and put a glass in the freezer. This makes you look like you know what you’re doing and also when it’s 30 degrees outside and 100 percent humidity anything out of the freezer is great. Any kind of glass is fine—I‘m not going to tell you off.

A little history

Sidecars were probably invented by Harry McElhone who was a Scotsman working in Paris at the New York Bar at the end of the First World War. Yeah I know. He came up with the ‘French’ version which is a 1:1:1 mix of brandy, triple sec and lemon juice. Close on his heels was Harry Craddock of the American Bar at the Savoy in London (you weren’t worth your salt as a bartender in the early 20th century if your name wasn’t Harry). He promoted the ‘English’ version of a 2:1:1 mix of the same.

Harry Craddock at the Savoy

Measure for measure

Personally I go for Craddock’s measures for this one—particularly if you’ve got something as reasonable as Cointreau or Grand Marnier to add to the mix. Somewhat counter-intuitively if your triple sec is not as good you want to put more in because the flavour is not going to be as strong. So if you’ve got some cheap orange something left over from margarita night I’d go with the French recipe.

Anyways—we’re thirsty and that glass is cold so what do we do?

Shake it up baby

On the deck– summertime sidecar

Put three or four ice cubes in a shaker. Add 1 1/2 oz brandy (I have been using Hennessey). Add ¾ oz each triple sec and lemon juice. If you are bad at measuring and don’t mind a more generous pour (i.e if you are me) go for a 2oz/1oz/1oz mix. Put the lid on the shaker and give it some elbow until the shaker feels nice and cold in your hands. Strain into your cold glass and and garnish with a strip of lemon peel.


It is often suggested that this be served in a sugar-rimmed glass (and this is perfectly authentic) but I don’t have the time or inclination for that kind of malarky!

Bottoms up!

Now you’re all ready for a night on the town or a night on the couch with a burrito and a pre-code Joan Crawford film (same/same). Cheers!

Joan Crawford in 1932’s Grand Hotel

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