The island of Curacao was passed around as a spoil of was for hundreds of years. First discovered by the Spanish in the 16th century, it was a possession of Spain, then Holland, then over to England, then back to Holland. Before the game of colonial hot potato, the Spanish planted their prized Valencia oranges on the island. The plan did not work; the soil did not agree with the oranges, and the only thing that was created was a bitter fruit that even the local animals would not eat. The oils in the peel, however, were just as vibrant as ever. There is much debate over who the first bold entrepreneur was to dry out the peel and soak out their essence in neutral grape spirits, but it worked. The resulting product, orange curacao, changed cocktails. It added another sweetening agent, one that started filtering in to the United States in the late 19th century. It was not widely used up to that point, mainly because it was hard to come by. But as its used started to pick up steam, it became more and more common to see behind the bar. Instead of simple syrup, bartenders were adding curacao to cocktails to sweeten them, changing the complexion ever so much.
Harry MacElhone was one of them. He bought a bar in Paris and named it Harry's New York Bar, a great place for Americans that were missing their cocktails in the desert of Prohibition to come and get a legal, unadulterated drink. This is one of the few places that cocktails were still being played with, invented, and explored. Europe is not big on the cocktail, so this bar in the middle of Paris was an anomaly. It is still considered the oldest cocktail bar in Europe. One of the cocktails that came out of it, for there were many, was the Sidecar. In the tradition of the Negroni, Harry's recipe was equal parts cognac, orange curacao, and lemon juice. The modern proportions have changed, but the flavor profile has stayed the same.
The Sidecar (from Harry's ABC of Mixing Drinks)
1 part cognac
1 part orange curacao
1 part lemon juice
(Pour the ingredients into a mixing tin and add ice.) Shake (until well chilled) and strain (into a cocktail glass).
The only instructions in Harry's book are the words NOT in parenthesis.
I am a fan of this version. While I love the more modern recipe, there is a balance of sweet and tart that works incredibly well. You can garnish it with a lemon twist or a sugared rim, but it does not really need it. What is in the glass is amazing in and of itself. If you want to make a more modern version, here it is:
1.5 oz./ 45 mL cognac
1 oz./ 30 mL orange liqueur
1 oz. / 30 mL fresh lemon juice
Garnish: Lemon Peel (Sugared rim is optional)
Pour the ingredients into a mixing tin and add ice. Shake until well chilled and strain into a cocktail glass. Twist the lemon peel over the cocktail and add to the drink.
This one also has some variation, depending on how sweet or tart you want it. But any way you sip it, it is a damn good drink.