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A while ago I made a sidecar with a little bottle of Courvoisier that I found in the liquor cabinet. I loved the drink, but I know so little about brandy and cognac that I didn't know to look at the label more closely. (VS? VSOP? None of the above?) I thought I'd buy some more to make a few more sidecars this holiday season, however, the array of brandies available is overwhelming. They come from all sorts of places and have all sorts of names, not to mention prices, and I have no idea what to try. Brandy from Spain, cognac and armagnac from the French regions, then things like Metaxa or even E & J... I just want a bottle that will mix me a nice drink and flambe a few fruit desserts from time to time. Does anyone have a favorite for this drink?

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St. Remy Brandy will work, although you might play a little bit with the proportions as it is a bit sweet. Joe at Ace Beverage has a couple of VS cognacs under $30 or so that will do just fine as well.

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St. Remy Brandy will work, although you might play a little bit with the proportions as it is a bit sweet.

Seriously? I saw it and wondered why it was so inexpensive. Maybe because it is not from Cognac proper?

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Seriously? I saw it and wondered why it was so inexpensive. Maybe because it is not from Cognac proper?

It's not, but several cocktail-weenie bars use it in sweeter brandy drinks.

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I like the Hardy VS "Red Corner" Cognac, right around $20 a bottle.

I remember getting a soupcon of Hardy VS to pour over my steak tartare at the lamented Les Halles. Ah, memories.

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Gilles Brisson VS Cognac. Mixes well and drinks pretty OK for cheap cognac.

Bacchus Imports carries it so your local boozemonger can get it easily if it is not already on their shelf.

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Thanks for the recommendations, and feel free to keep them coming if you have one. I'm a little surprised that I haven't had any big names or expensive suggestions. I was expecting to have to pay quite a bit more. Cheers!

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I'm a little surprised that I haven't had any big names or expensive suggestions. I was expecting to have to pay quite a bit more. Cheers!

Sorry to disappoint you :(.

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You're using Cointreau for your Sidecar, right? If not, I'd upgrade your triple sec before your cognac. The choice of cognac is more subjective, just trust what you've enjoyed before and it should work pretty well for you.

The sugared rim is also a lost art, and hugely important to this drink. I'm not good at it at home, yet. The best technique, IMO, in town is at Bourbon Steak, I like the choice of glass that they use. Order one of their crustas from Jamie, Duane or Dean. A good sidecar should be pretty tart, with just a lightly sugared rim for the perfect balance.

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You're using Cointreau for your Sidecar, right? If not, I'd upgrade your triple sec before your cognac. The choice of cognac is more subjective, just trust what you've enjoyed before and it should work pretty well for you.

The sugared rim is also a lost art, and hugely important to this drink. I'm not good at it at home, yet. The best technique, IMO, in town is at Bourbon Steak, I like the choice of glass that they use. Order one of their crustas from Jamie, Duane or Dean. A good sidecar should be pretty tart, with just a lightly sugared rim for the perfect balance.

Dave is absolutely correct on this. Sugar content is critical on this drink.

As far as a sugar rim goes, Degroff suggests freezing the glass after rimming it.

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I used Cointreau and fresh-pressed lemon juice. Ratio: Two parts cognac, one part Cointreau, one part lemon. I like a drier drink, and this was pretty good with no sugared rim. I've since read that you can rim half the glass and try it both ways to see which you prefer. There's a lot of literature out there about the Sidecar, but very few people are willing to suggest a brandy. I guess they assume you are making it with your favorite. Now I just need a favorite.

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I apologize for interjecting my own agenda into your question. I do think the choice of cognac is secondary to these getting those things down, I'd hate for someone to read this and think a $75 cognac is more important than the Cointreau. But you obviously got all the fundamentals down!

I haven't tried it yet, but the next cognac I'll get is the Pierre Ferrand Ambre. I've heard good things about it. Previously I've used Hennessey "Privilege" VSOP to great success, but I'm trying to support the independents. I hope you'll report back if you find something you love, I could use that info.

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Instead of Cointreau, try Triplum Triple Sec from Luxardo.

I'll look for it next time I shop.

I apologize for interjecting my own agenda into your question. I do think the choice of cognac is secondary to these getting those things down, I'd hate for someone to read this and think a $75 cognac is more important than the Cointreau. But you obviously got all the fundamentals down!

I haven't tried it yet, but the next cognac I'll get is the Pierre Ferrand Ambre. I've heard good things about it. Previously I've used Hennessey "Privilege" VSOP to great success, but I'm trying to support the independents. I hope you'll report back if you find something you love, I could use that info.

No apology necessary. Ulterior agendas frequently lead to better drinks.

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I haven't tried it yet, but the next cognac I'll get is the Pierre Ferrand Ambre. I've heard good things about it. Previously I've used Hennessey "Privilege" VSOP to great success, but I'm trying to support the independents. I hope you'll report back if you find something you love, I could use that info.

The PF Ambre makes a very good Sidecar. The VA ABC sells it for $46.95, but I'm sure that you can get a better deal across the river. Happy experimenting!

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I think, as a general rule, that any cocktail made with an orange-flavored liqueur is best made with Cointreau, which is not only the best orange-flavored liqueur, but the one best suited to cocktails. In fact, I don't think anything else comes remotely close, although I must admit I've never tasted the Luxardo that Dean recommends above. (Luxardo maraschino is certainly the ne plus ultra of that tipple.) As to brandy, I think putting an expensive brandy in a cocktail is a silly waste of money. St. Remy, discussed above, is surprisingly smooth and pleasant, especially considering that it's practically free, and since you're spending all that money for Cointreau it's nice to save a little on the brandy. For a somewhat more upscale choice, you might consider a cognac called Decourtet; Calvert Woodley sells the VS version for $16.99, the VSOP for ten dollars more.

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I think, as a general rule, that any cocktail made with an orange-flavored liqueur is best made with Cointreau, which is not only the best orange-flavored liqueur, but the one best suited to cocktails. In fact, I don't think anything else comes remotely close, although I must admit I've never tasted the Luxardo that Dean recommends above. (Luxardo maraschino is certainly the ne plus ultra of that tipple.)

You know, I have to think there's a billion-dollar industry waiting to be built from scratch in Florida.

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I think, as a general rule, that any cocktail made with an orange-flavored liqueur is best made with Cointreau, which is not only the best orange-flavored liqueur, but the one best suited to cocktails. In fact, I don't think anything else comes remotely close, although I must admit I've never tasted the Luxardo that Dean recommends above. (Luxardo maraschino is certainly the ne plus ultra of that tipple.)

For what it is worth, since I bought my first bottle of Luxardo Triplum I have not bothered to replace the Cointreau, I find it to be the better triple sec.

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I think, as a general rule, that any cocktail made with an orange-flavored liqueur is best made with Cointreau, which is not only the best orange-flavored liqueur, but the one best suited to cocktails. In fact, I don't think anything else comes remotely close

I absolutely agree. I've personally been taught by two of the top dogs in the industry that using Cointreau is paramount when making Sidecars, Cosmos and Margaritas. It has a viscosity that lends the drink body. Luxardo is good but very different. It's bright and a little thin. It's good for mixing but not if you are looking to make the classics as they were intended.

As to brandy, I think putting an expensive brandy in a cocktail is a silly waste of money. St. Remy, discussed above, is surprisingly smooth and pleasant

Right again, the only rule is V.S. or older.

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I absolutely agree. I've personally been taught by two of the top dogs in the industry that using Cointreau is paramount when making Sidecars, Cosmos and Margaritas. It has a viscosity that lends the drink body. Luxardo is good but very different. It's bright and a little thin. It's good for mixing but not if you are looking to make the classics as they were intended.

Right again, the only rule is V.S. or older.

St. Remy Brandy VSOP, NV, 1.75, $23.99,

(Schneider's of Capitol Hill)

yes or no?

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St. Remy Brandy VSOP, NV, 1.75, $23.99,

(Schneider's of Capitol Hill)

yes or no?

that's a steal. perfect size/price for punch bowls during the upcoming holidays.

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For what it is worth, since I bought my first bottle of Luxardo Triplum I have not bothered to replace the Cointreau, I find it to be the better triple sec.

Who carries it in Washington? (A related issue is what exactly is "triple sec", and what exactly is "curaçao"? I've never managed to find a definition of either that is explicit and authoritative enough that I can confidently assign either Cointreau or Grand Marnier to one or to the other or to neither. And why is something as sweet as orange liqueur called "triple sec" anyway?)

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Who carries it in Washington? (A related issue is what exactly is "triple sec", and what exactly is "curaçao"? I've never managed to find a definition of either that is explicit and authoritative enough that I can confidently assign either Cointreau or Grand Marnier to one or to the other or to neither. And why is something as sweet as orange liqueur called "triple sec" anyway?)

I bought my bottle of Luxardo Triplum at Central Liquors. They carry alot of the Luxardo line, but I had to special order this bottle (around $24). I'd probably just special order from Ace this time around.

I understood triple secs (like Cointreau) to be neutral spirit based, and orange curacaos (e.g. GM) to be brandy/cognac based. That is why I somewhat disagree with you that Cointreau is the be-all end-all. Those are the two in my home bar, although I do use Triplum and Marie Brizard's orange curacao in my well.

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