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The Crimson Hour: Riding Sidecar North from Fulton County

This week we try to fend off being unsettled by the desire to watch the Phillies play and, at the same time, scurvy with the incomparable Sidecar.

Frenchy, hit the showers and grab a taste of your motherland.
Frenchy, hit the showers and grab a taste of your motherland.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

When fans' feet on the pavement quicken toward the gates, we cease to measure the length of the day with clocks, whose ticks and tocks now distend ever more noiselessly until we count beats and rhythms in pitches and swings. We frame periods in innings and recover a more intimate acquaintance with beginnings and endings, with the origin of finitude. This is the hour for hushed vitality, for precise attention, for active sensation—sight, sound, touch, but most of all smell and taste. This is the crimson hour.

This weekend, amidst the bipolar days of late April in the mid-Atlantic, the Phillies face the Braves for the first time this season. Entering the season we joked that the Phillies and Braves would battle for the NL East basement and perhaps even the first pick in the draft. In hindsight those jokes did not contain enough truth to count as jokes. The Braves opened the season going 8-4, although a recent sweep at the hands of the Mets has brought them back to Earth. Meanwhile, the Phillies have played barely competent baseball, staking themselves to a comfortable lead in the race for the bottom. And they have an opportunity this weekend to extend that lead even further. Even if the Phils involuntary tanking makes you happy because it will help secure a brighter future, that happiness still tastes bitter because it needn't have come to this in the first place.

To sweeten this bitterness and loosen winter's tendrils from our early spring hearts, I recommend we savor the Sidecar this weekend. A three-piece mix of brandy, orange liqueur, and lemon juice, the Sidecar has a unique capacity to taste refreshing in icy and melting temperatures. In the cold, the brandy's earthy tones effect warmth while the citrus sweetness reminds one of unstructured summer days. In the dead heat, the lemon and orange come out more strongly, dispersing sweat with a sharp cleansing. Given its versatility, it is no wonder that the Sidecar is another old cocktail with no authoritative origin or ratios.

But we can speculate. The cocktail is made with a) traditionally French ingredients and b) traditionally Southern fruits. Probably, the Sidecar was invented somewhere around New Orleans and made its way north to New York thanks to the Willy Lomans who just couldn't shake the excitement of being on the road.

So, let's enjoy this southern cocktail while watching the Phillies struggle against the hated rival that is "rebuilding the right way." Here's the recipe:

Tools: Shaker, Juice, Martini or Coupe Glass

Ingredients: Brandy, Orange Liqueur, Lemon, Cherry


  1. Place Glass in freezer.
  2. Fill Shaker with ice.
  3. Juice half a lemon and pour juice into Shaker (through mesh strainer if you don't like pulp)
  4. Pour shot (1.5 oz) of Brandy and 1 oz of Orange Liqueur into Shaker.
  5. Shake contents until the metal gets very cold. Shake vigorously but not so hard that the ice breaks apart and puts lots of shards in the drink.
  6. Remove Glass from freezer, place cherry in glass, and strain contents of Shaker into Glass.

This is my wife's favorite cocktail and I make them very often. She likes to brag that we were onto the Sidecar before, during, and after they were cool, at least in Chicago. I have no idea how the rest of the country has been feeling about Sidecars.

As I said before, the Sidecar is very versatile. You can use high-end cognac and Cointreau or Paul Masson and Triple-Sec. While the former will certainly taste better, both are quite good. I do, however, recommend using fresh lemon juice in order to get a stronger lemon flavor as well as a more complete sour flavor. Weak lemon juice will make this cocktail taste a bit too sweet and of orange derivative. The ratios I use obviously are somewhat loose because I don't measure the lemon juice. Generally, I aim for 3 parts brandy, 2 parts orange liqueur, and almost 2 parts lemon juice. But other recipes go with 1:1:1 and still others 8:2:1. Feel free to find your perfect mix.

And now a toast:

May the ball that hits the glove land softly in the palm and when it doesn't may the Sidecar render your nerves nevertheless calm.