The sidecar is one of my favorite cocktails-tart and just a little sweet, It's warming in wintertime and refreshing in the summer. You can replace the Cointreau, a lovely liqueur made from bitter oranges, with another orange liqueur such as (not-blue) curacao or even triple sec ... but then it wouldn't be quite perfect. Fresh lemon juice is a must; bottled leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. And as always with cocktails that are shaken over ice, use lots and lots of good-sized ice cubes, and shake well, for at least 5 seconds past the point at which condensation forms on the outside of the shaker. This will both thoroughly chill the drink and whip up a fine froth that will float to the top of the finished drink all pretty and festive-like.
Makes 2 cocktails
Chill 2 small stemmed cocktail glasses in the freezer. Spread the vanilla sugar on a small plate. Rub the rim of each glass with the reserved piece of lemon and dip it in the sugar.
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add the lemon juice, Cointreau, and brandy. Shake well, then immediately strain into the prepared glasses. Drop in the cherries and serve immediately.
Cherry Pitting: You Have Options
At U-pick cherry orchards, my dad likes to ask the proprietors which row the pitless cherries are in (her), But until that travesty hits the grocery stores alongside seedless-and bland-watermelons, pit we must. For jam, or for any application in which the cherries can (or should) be chopped or broken down into pieces, a mechanical cherry pitter is perfectly acceptable. The Oxo cherry-and-olive pitter is pretty effective and easy to use. For preserves, in which you want the cherries to retain their shape as much as possible, however, the best tool is one that leaves only one hole in the fruit, and that would be a large regular paperclip. Unfold it so that there's a bight, or bend, at each end. Hold the large bend in your dominant hand, the cherry in your other hand, and insert the small bend into the top of the cherry. Gently lever and pull the pit out. This method works best with fresh, tender sour cherries (after you have a quarter pound of cherries under your belt it'll become second nature, and will likely be faster than the Oxo); it works somewhat less well with very firm sweet cherries that have been refrigerated.