Monday, April 11, 2011
The Peruvian Sidecar: The Painted Forest Cocktail
I've always felt that the point of the Sidecar was the interaction of strong bitter (lemon) and sweet (Cointreau and sugar) flavors, with the brandy or Cognac serving as background. I think that pisco has a slightly more aggressive flavor profile than most Cognac or brandy so I wanted to feature that more. To do so, and to avoid too much of a cacophony in the drink, I substituted lime for lemon, lessening the sour notes, and blue agave nectar for the sugar on the rim, diminishing the sweetness.
As for the name, we are painting the living room, occupying all of last weekend (sanding and priming) and a good chunk of the coming week, so paint is on my mind and the tropical tones of the drink lead to the forest part of the name.
1.5 ounces of pisco
3/4 ounce of Cointreau
3/4 ounce of lime juice
Shake well with ice and poor into a chilled cocktail glass with agave nectar on the rim and garnish with a twisted lime peal.
Taste (flavor, balance, and clarity): 9
I think this drink works really well on a lot of levels. Much like The Last Word, I would characterize the Sidecar as showing a "bouncy" taste, where different parts of your palate are absorbing very sweet and very tart flavors, with the brandy holding it together. The sweet and tart flavors have been muted a bit and the spicier pisco replaces the Cognac, resulting in an equally balanced, but more subtle drink. Because the sweet notes are not as strong with the agave than with the sugar rim, I think the drink has a more savory feel. I also like the aftertaste of lime better than that of lemon.
Versatility (when and for who the drinks works): 9
This drink is neither too sweet nor bitter, as a lot of classic cocktails are. It also features an amenable middle ground between very strong cocktails that scare off the likes of my wife and sweeter ones that hide the booze. My wife liked (though didn't love) the Painted Forest. Additionally, I could see drinking this in a lot of settings, though warm weather like this evening with the windows open is probably ideal.
Hassle (cost and time): 7
The drink is moderate in both time and money. The drink requires juicing about 1.5 limes and pealing one as well. I got the pricier of the piscos that I could find, though Cognac still usually runs far more and Cointreau is moderately expensive as well.
I really enjoyed this drink. I think it's an excellent cousin for one of my favorite classic cocktails, the Sidecar. I think it would work for a lot of people in numerous settings with a moderate amount of hassle. Additionally, it features a primary ingredient that lacks a lot of recipes. I also like the use of agave for several reasons. One, it is less intense than sugar. Two, it adds more complexity to the cocktail than sugar. And three, I enjoyed dipping the rim the glass in a ring of agave. That said, as you can see from the picture, agave, which is a bit runnier than honey, drips, which makes the drink look sort of sticky and sickly. Oh well...
I might tinker with the proportions, perhaps taking down the lime and Cointreau to 1/2 ounce each to further feature the pisco. No major changes though because the flavor is complex enough that any additional ingredients would likely muddle things.