We were the delighted recipients of two luxurious, liquid gifts this Christmas:  a bottle of Grand Marnier and one of Remy Martin.  When mixed together with a spash of fresh lemon juice, these fine spirits make my very favorite cocktail, the sidecar.  It’s a perfectly balanced drink, rich and warm yet crisp and light, not too sour or too sweet, and silky smooth.

There are two master recipes for the sidecar.  The English version combines two parts brandy with one part orange liquor and one part lemon juice.  The French version — cleaner and fresher to my palate — calls for the same three ingredients in equal measure.

And then there is a third version, my own improvisation, concocted from more the affordable ingredients found a few shelves below the Cognac and Cointreau.  It lacks the depth and grandeur of the sidecar, but has a nicely balanced, refreshing quality all it’s own.  A little like a margarita, but without the sour, bitter edge, it’s a sturdy, easy-drinking cocktail.  We call it a boxcar.

Whether you’re having a top-shelf or bottom-shelf evening tonight, enjoy.  And have a happy new year.

French sidecar

1 oz.  Cognac or Armagnac

1 oz. Cointreau or Grand Marnier

1 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice (about half a lemon)

Combine Cognac, Cointreau, lemon juice, and a handful of ice cubes in a shaker and mix until chilled.  Strain into a cocktail glass.  Garnish with a strip of lemon peel, if desired.

Boston boxcar

1 oz. domestic brandy

1 oz. triple sec

1 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice (about half a lemon)

Combine brandy, triple sec, lemon juice, and a handful of ice cubes in a shaker and mix until chilled.  Strain into a cocktail glass. (If you don’t have a shaker, serving over ice is just fine.)  Garnish with a strip of lemon peel, if desired.

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