I discovered cognac in midtown Manhattan, where — to make a reporting assignment on the latest and greatest in spa technology more enjoyable, and to take full advantage of a journalist-seducing open bar at the annual Spa and Wellness Show — I ordered a Courvoisier. (Say it aloud; it’s a perfect word.)
I loved the smooth French brandy, and I went after it the way any just-turned-21 drinker would: by drinking it in painfully hip, contemporary “speakeasies,” where it most often appears in the Sidecar.
The Sidecar is a deceptively simple cocktail: either a one-to-one-to-one ratio of cognac, cointreau and lemon juice (for the French version), or a two-to-one-to-one ratio (for the English take). At Pullman, where you can find the best Sidecar in Iowa City, the recipe calls for 2 ounces of cognac, 3/4 ounce of cointreau and 3/4 ounce of lemon juice, plus a slightly unorthodox teaspoon of simple syrup.
The bartender shakes everything up with some ice and strains it into a coupe glass — a process just long enough for you to witness the whole spectacle of your neighbor pouring bacon-flavored bourbon down a hollowed out beef bone luge into his mouth (and onto his pants).
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 180