Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Squid Mixes: The Sidecar Chronicles

The sidecar cocktail was invented during World War I.  The history is a bit murky as to where exactly but either London or Paris.  In the beginning, the recipe called for Cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice, though variations since have allowed for other brandies and other orange liqueurs.  At our house, we have generally favored Robert Simonson's recipe from 3-Ingredient Cocktails.  He likes the original combo.  The International Bartenders Association (IBA) standards, on the other hand, stick by the Cognac but allow for the more general "triple sec."  For our experiments, I am choosing to keep our usual Cognac as brandies in a comparable price range are generally sweeter and we don't want that.  As with The Champs-Élysées, I also have no desire to fuss over lemons.  So, that leaves the orange flavoring...

Orange Liqueur Battles: Cointreau vs. Grand Marnier

We begin with the heavyweights.  Cointreau is produced in Saint-Barthélemy-d'Anjou, France.  The Cointreau brothers Adolphe and Edouard-Jean began selling their orange liqueur in 1870.  In 1990, the family-owned company merged with Rémy Martin to form Rémy Cointreau, a publicly traded entity.  

Grand Marnier's first distillery was built in 1827 in Neauphle-le-Château, France.  The current flagship product was first produced in 1880.  The brand is now owned by the Campari Group in Italy.

Head-to-head, Grand Marnier is simply more orangey, both in color and flavor.  It is smoother and the combination with Cognac is less baby aspriny than one gets with Cointreau.

Winner: Grand Marnier

Orange Liqueur Battles: Grand Marnier vs. Bols Triple Sec

Bols has been our preferred lower-shelf triple sec for some time.  The Dutch company claims to be the oldest distillery brand in the world, extant since 1575.  The triple sec is but one of 30 different flavors produced.

We both preferred Grand Marnier - simply more flavor by my reckoning.  Interestingly, my wife said she prefers the Bols to Cointreau: less harsh.  I feel with a gentler orange flavor in the Bols, more of the lemon comes through - not a bad thing.

Winner and Champion: Grand Marnier

So, here's our Sidecar All-Star Team:

Salignac Cognac
Grand Marnier

Next up: Bronx Cocktail


  1. I haven't tried Grand Marnier, yet, but we keep Cointreau around.
    And Curacao. We use the Curacao more, at this point, because it's better in Mai Tais, but I tend to prefer Cointreau when paired against each other. It has more orange flavor, I think. But, then, maybe that's why the Curacao works better in the Tiki drinks.

    1. Oddly, Vermont liquor stores don't carry white Curaçao, just the blue.

    2. That seems weird to me.
      The guy who wrote Smuggler's Cove won't use the blue.

    3. Ha! My wife is opposed to it so I don't have any. I had a friend in college who was partial to blue drinks. She seems to have developed more sophisticated tastes in the years since.

      As for Vermont... there are other "orange liqueurs" on the shelves that might be fun to explore someday. And they will special order stuff for you but I want my standbys to be things I can find easily - otherwise they don't quite qualify as standbys.

    4. It sounds like you need a Booze Palace. :P
      (That's what we call the liquor store we get our alcohol from. It's much better than its actual name.)

    5. What we really need is California's liquor laws.

    6. Ohhh... How different are they?
      I have no idea about that kind of thing.

    7. Vermont is a control state whereas California is not. That can mean different things in different states but what it means in our case is that all of our liquor stores are state-contracted and licensed. Everyone sells at the same price from the same inventory list. There is some flexibility: bigger stores carry a wider range of products, stores can place special orders for customers, etc. But the price list is the same for all.

      There are advantages from the consumer perspective. I know generally what's available, what's on sale, etc. The disadvantage is that some products are harder to get. There's no shortage of things to explore on Vermont's shelves but I do maintain a list of stuff to pick up when we're in New Hampshire, Quebec, etc. Not that we're actually able to go anywhere right now...

    8. That's so... weird to me. The prices are different everywhere here. So much so that I have to go to different places based on what I need to get. Which is kind of annoying on one level, but only if I don't plan to incorporate a trip to get what I need.

    9. For the most part, it doesn't bother me. Like I said, there's still plenty to explore with what we have.

    10. I finally got some triple sec. I don't care for it. Too sweet. I think both Cointreau and curacao are better.

    11. I will say this for triple sec: compared to the others, it's cheap.

    12. Yeah, it was very cheap, but I won't buy it again.
      Still, it's good to try the things.
      Another cocktail post tomorrow.

  2. I like Grand Mariner... I am reading a collection of Archibald Rutlede's "Christmas Stories." He was a poet laureate from SC. In the back of this book are a collection of recipes including these drinks: Blackberry Cordial, Syllabub, Saint's Delight, and Golden Moonbeam. Ever heard of them?

    1. That's an exciting looking list. Let's see...

      I've had cordials before but never blackberry. My wife made a cranberry one last fall. I haven't heard of any of the others. Syllabub is a fantastic name! What's in it?

    2. The drink was suposedly named for Sally Rutledge, teh spinster daughter of the Declaration of Independence signatory Edward Rutledge (one of the author's ancestors) and was made at Christmas time. It included a quart of cream, half pint of sweet wine in which the peel of lemons had been steeped, and a half pint of Maderia (not sure what that is). Then added the justice from two lemons, finely powdered allspice, and sugar to taste. Whisk ingredients together, stirring vigorously until a froth rises. Skim away the froth and continue whisking. The froth is placed in glasses partly filled with the liquid mixture... (Taken from the book "Carolina Christmas: Archibald Rutledge's Enduring Holiday Stories," edited by Jim Casada

    3. Sounds lovely.

      Madeira is a fortified wine, hailing from the Portuguese-controlled islands of the same name off the coast of Africa.