Between the Sheets

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A spin on the Sidecar, Between the Sheets is a fantastic drink.


While I could subscribe to all the topical choices made by earlier cocktail bloggers and historians, id est, a mention of the sexual connotations of the name, I feel that is somewhat trite for a drink that is quintessentially a classic and a well-made and strange drink at that.  It is uncommon for older drinks to feature two spirits, especially in equal proportions.  To give such weight to the liquor means that the bartender was most likely confident in the taste, or in the fact the cocktail itself is unique with respect to that, and the name, suggests the mingling of these two spirits.  Contemporaneously, we see quite often drinks that combine various spirits in order to produce new and exciting flavors.  Both the differences in consumption habits, as well as ways in which we conceive of spirits as another tool in craft cocktail repertoires,  probably help to explain this phenomenon of change in production habits among bartenders.  With craft cocktails that have a myriad of various ingredients to produce one libation, in the name of “mixology,” there is little hesitation to use a spirit with a characteristic flavor (such as an Islay Scotch) as another aspect to the overall potation. 

Between the Sheets cocktail was most likely created by Harry MacElhone, bartender at the eponymous Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, in the 1930s.  However, there are a few who subscribe, still, to the idea that the drink was a product of the 1920s and originated in London (this reference is apparently sourced from Classic Cocktail Club, Published in Milan, Italy).  Yet, it seems quite likely that the drink is from Harry’s, as well as the relationship the drink bears to the Sidecar, which most likely originated several years earlier in Paris at the Ritz Hotel.  The Sidecar, which expert cocktailians like Embury consider to be one of the quintessential cocktails, is tremendously similar, save for that it focuses principally on the brandy.  The Sidecar was also reputedly popular in Harry’s Bar, which continues to give credence to the idea that this drink stems from that bar.

Regardless of the origins, we know the drink was popular, because it shows up in the guides for bartenders at the time, as a drink that bartenders, especially those in the UK, should be aware of and be able to produce.  Thank Craddock for his efforts with the United Kingdom Bartender’s Guild.

Recipes vary from as much as equal proportions of all four ingredients, to two parts spirits to one part lemon juice.  Personally, I prefer this on a slightly less acidic side, making the spirits work more side by side, to produce something unique.  In this case, I also cut back on the amount of Cointreau that I use.  However, this drink is one which definitely requires Cointreau, since other orange liqueurs tend to be either two sweet or overpower the rum in ways that limits the drinks’ balance.  Concerning the choice of r(h)um: really the preference is yours and thus the decision in the end is yours as the creator, but the drink works well in almost all cases with lighter rums.  However, giving or using either a rhum or a darker, aged rum gives a fantastic and very different approach to the cocktail which seems just a bit more removed from the Sidecar ancestor.

You can also see variance built across cultural preference structures of taste: for instance, Difford’s Guide gives a version of the drink that includes mineral water, and simple syrup, in order to make the drink “more approachable.”  And while there is nothing wrong with these styles, it is not necessarily the type of drink which most individuals who have a sense of acquired taste concerning liquor would want.  As you, imbiber, may very well know, generally the more you acquire a taste for finer liquors, the more you want those spirits to come through, and thus the less you want to sweeten or tamper with them.

Between the Sheets:

1 ounce rum
1 ounce brandy
1 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce lemon juice

Combine the ingredients with ice, shake to chill well, and strain into a chilled c glass.  Garnish with a lemon twist.