Wild peppermint puts a badass twist on the gentle classic
My son, an environmental scientist, was doing whatever it is environmental scientists do somewhere in the wilds of mid-state Virginia. He came across a cluster of wild peppermint. This he would know as mentha canadensis.
Because he is a loving son, he brought back a handful for his dad to do something drinky with.
So what would I do?
I looked, I turned it around in my hand, admired its handsome scuzz. I washed it. I gave a leaf a good smack and sniffed it. Less mint, more “weed.” I bit an edge. Peppery [duh], firm. Again, weedy.
So what would I do with such a unruly bit of foliage?
A sugared rim adds elegance, texture, and forward sweetness to the classic Sidecar — which is why you need to mess with the recipe.
Regular readers of this blog — both of them — may note that controlling sweetness is a sort of crusade of mine. A perfectly balanced drink rides that delicate edge where tart and sweet and booze all contribute equally, none getting too much attention.
Which brings me to the Sidecar, a pre- [or during-] Prohibition [-ish] drink that in mostcontemporaryrenditions is mixed 2:1:1 — 1.5 oz cognac, .75 oz lemon juice, .75 oz Cointreau.
Harry Braddock’s [him again] 1930 TheSavoy Cocktail Book has it at .5/.25/.25 [more evidence of the giantism that’s gallumphed into cocktaildom over the past few drinking generations.]
The Sidecar is a wonderful, and yes, perfectly balanced, drink — solid, simple, satisfying, the color of parchment. Classic, as they say.
Just add sugar…to the rim
Somewhere along the way — let’s call it 1934 just for sport — the drink picked up a sugared rim. The great Dale DeGroff, in his 2008 The Essential Cocktail, recommends the 2:1:1 ratio along with the sugar rim, explaining that the flourish is an adaptation of Jerry Thomas’ [him again] Brandy Crusta [page 52 of his Bartender’s Guide, for those following along via knockoff reprint].
And so with the contemporary Sidecar we have a classically balanced drink — with an added garnish that tips it, for me, into an unwholesome sweetness.