We’re lucky bastards, Boozers. The nice folks at Catoctin Creek Distilling Company blessed us with an early sample of their 1757 Virginia Brandy — still young and not quite ready for prime time — and we’ve been contemplating it for several weeks. Richly mellow and lightly fruity, brandy can truly elevate winter cocktails to a new level of warm delight.
There are several cocktails that feature brandy, such as the Brandy Alexander and the Vieux Carré, but we weren’t inspired until we decided to check out the Boxcar Tavern, a new establishment in our area. As always, we eagerly examined the signature cocktail menu, and, while we were intrigued by the nutmeg syrup used in the whiskey-based Warm Winter Night, we were surprised that a place called the Boxcar wouldn’t have a signature Sidecar. Just seems like a natural fit.
So we’ve created it ourselves: the Boxcar. A classic Sidecar features brandy (or cognac, and we’re sure you know that all cognac is brandy but not all brandy is cognac), Cointreau, and lemon juice. But that nutmeg syrup just begs for brandy, and, with images of boxcars trundling north through the swamps of central Florida piled high with citrus, we felt that fresh oranges were a natural complement. The result is a gorgeous little burst of winter spice with subtle notes of spring break sunshine. Santé!
As you know, we hate to see dusty bottles of so-called “seasonal” liquors languish in the cupboard, so we eschewed the Cointreau, generally used in a traditional Sidecar, in favor of triple sec. You may only think of triple sec as used in summer margaritas, but its softly bitter orange flavor works just as well as Cointreau in this application.
3/4 ounce freshly-squeezed orange juice (we used a couple of clementines; mandarins and tangerines would also work quite well)
3/4 ounce triple sec
1.5 ounces brandy or cognac
Scant teaspoon nutmeg syrup (basically, just add a 1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg to 1/4 cup of simple syrup)
Sugar and lemon, for coating the rim of the glass
Run a slice of lemon around the edge of a martini or cosmopolitan glass and dip in sugar. Put the orange juice, triple sec, brandy, and nutmeg syrup into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into glass and enjoy.