The Great Toronto Cocktail Challenge: The Sidecar
Day two of The Great Toronto Cocktail Challenge brings me to the city's oldest continuously running hotel in the city--the Gladstone. And at the Melody Bar, I decide on a cocktail I like to imagine was served up in those early days as well.
The Sidecar originates in either First World War era London or Paris. As with many cocktails of the time its origins are murky, but Harry's Bar in Paris is often credited for making the drink famous.
Classically it's a straw coloured drink, shaken and served in a martini glass with a sugared rim and garnished with some lemon peel. After WWII the drink fell out of fashion for years, but has always maintained that "Classic" status. These days it has had a bit of a resurgence and after a recommendation from Twitter, the Gladstone Hotel seemed like just the spot to sample this old standard.
Sidecar - 2oz, $11.00
Top Notes - 5/10
This Sidecar is served bare bones. No garnish (totally passable) and no sugared rim (totally not). A little lemon wedge or rind makes for a nice touch, but is entirely unnecessary in the overall enjoyment of the drink. The sugared rim on the other hand, is an absolutely vital aspect of the cocktail on equal footing as lemon juice. In fact, the lemon juice is the very reason it's there--it helps mellow out the sourness.
The Back End - 5/10
A great cocktail is composed with great ingredients, but great ingredients alone do not make a great cocktail. The final element in the equation is proportion. Finding that sweet spot where every element works together to create something new with a unique flavour and characteristics, that is what makes a fine cocktail. Unfortunately, such is not the case here.
I won't fault my bartender, no one is perfect, but this cocktail had way too much lemon juice. The overwhelming sourness could be partially chalked up to the lack of a sugared rim, which would have helped dull it a little, but even that wouldn't have been enough to save this cocktail. The Cointreau was all but absent and only the faintest hint of brandy could be detected. It basically tasted like a brandy and lemon juice, but that's not a real drink--and for good reason.
Finish - 5/10
Citrus is a crucial ingredient in cocktails and you'd be hard pressed to find one that didn't employ its use to some degree. It's acidity cuts through the alcohol, and smoothes out the flavours, sweetness is then used to glaze over the potency of the sourness. That is essentially the recipe for the majority of cocktails: spirits, sour, sweet.
Unfortunately, if any element of that holy trinity is out of whack, the whole drink falls apart. It's a bit of a tightrope walk to make it succeed sometimes, but there's one sure fire way to ensure it never happens: taste the drink. Just dip a spoon or a straw into the cocktail and have a taste before sending it out. A chef wouldn't send out a plate without checking the flavours first, and neither should a bartender.
TOTAL: 15/30 (50%)
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