Monday, October 26, 2009

Sidecar Shenanigans in Vancouver...

Your host recently returned from a great weekend in Vancouver, British Columbia. It's definitely a city worth visiting. It's clean, beautiful, and the public transit is robust. The local beer rivals beer from Seattle, Portland, or SF, and the restaurant scene is diverse with many Asian influences. For us San Francisco residents, Vancouver's West End and Yaletown have provided a good deal of inspiration for SF's South of Market redevelopment with all the new tall residential towers. Vancouver got on this bandwagon 30+ years ago. While Vancouver is on the cutting edge of many things, it's severely lacking in one area...cocktails.

Think big, sweet, icy, and very 1980's. It's as if Vancouver cocktails are harking back to their 1986 World Expo, instead of looking forward to the 2010 Winter Olympics. Your host had the chance to peruse several cocktail lists during the short trip. Of the drinks ordered, most memorable was a uniquely Canadian Sidecar.Your host has never had a Sidecar like this one. And yes, the picture above is of said Sidecar. Granted, a Sidecar was not on the menu, but given that the establishment was fancy (it seemed to be Vancouver's equivalent to the Top of the Mark or Starlight Room in San Francisco), and our server assured us that they had a "very experienced" bartender, it didn't seem like a big request. After all, a Sidecar in its simplest form is cognac/brandy, Cointreau, and lemon juice, served up in a cocktail glass. How difficult is that? Apparently very.

Our friendly, but clueless server should have been a warning sign, as he had never heard of a Sidecar before, but again referenced their "very experienced" bartender. As one familiar with Sidecars might imagine, the above result was somewhat shocking. If the bartender was experienced, it must have been at Trader Vic's or some other Temple of Tikidom. With a broad smile, our server exclaimed, "This sidecar drink looks delicious! Brandy, triple sec, and lime sweet and sour mix. Is this what you wanted?" Short of the brandy being pisco, it was hard to fathom exactly what brandy was used in the drink (or if it was actually brandy at all) based on the color. In a situation as comical as this, it seemed best to politely smile and express how interesting it is to try new preparations. Next time it will probably be better to stick with a beer.

This story aside, there likely are plenty of spots in Vancouver that can made a good sidecar and other classic cocktails. Just be careful of what you order, and stick to something on the menu.

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