Somewhere in the January 13th, 1955 issue of The Motor Cycle magazine, a writer listed as J.A. Sheldon, wrote a sentence that looks something like this:
Mr M Bertoux, a French army officer, secured a prize offered by a French newspaper in 1893 for the best method of carrying a passenger on a bicycle.
As someone who does research, that is an infuriating sentence. While it might look like it contains information, it lacks lots of details that would be really nice when trying to substantiate the claim.
For instance, what is Mr. Bertoux’s first name? What rank was he in the French Army? What city in France did this newspaper come from? What was the name of the newspaper? What prize did he win?
Any of those pieces of information would be helpful in trying to figure out the real history of this design.
Even more frustrating is that seemingly hundreds of English speaking websites and articles cite that sentence, without adding any further information. What’s more awful, is that now this very post will only serve to strengthen the google search results of the poorly cited information! I am but a pawn in this terrible game!!!
Or I was. Until an amazing friend of mine, who happens to speak French, amongst a few other languages, helped me do some research. In classic James Bond fashion, I will refer to her only as Q, and Q is superb at gathering intelligence. Here is the intel that she found:
The M. in “M. Bertoux” was likely misinterpreted as being a man’s first initial. It was not. The M likely meant “Monsieur”, which is commonly abbreviated as “M.”
So it was not “Mr. M. Bertoux”, Monsieur Bertoux’s actual first name was Jean.
Jean Bertoux was the Chief Armorer of the 46th infantry regiment at Fontainebleau in the outskirts of Paris. His family hailed from the Saone et Loire, a region of France, kinda sorta in southern Burgundy, located between two rivers. Wanna guess their names?
Did you say the Saone and the Loire? Probably not, because you know about as much French geography as I do, which is next to zero, but I commend your effort, which again, was probably zero. Anyway, Jean was born around 1856, the son of a machinist for some sort of train/railroad company. From what I can tell, his father worked on the mechanisms of steam trains. So tinkering around with mechanics and building bicycle modifications would have been no big deal for lil’ Jean.
He also made modifications to the standard issue rifle for the French army which would be used throughout WWI, and kinda sorta build a car that was less widely used, but anyway, we don’t care about any of that.
Jean Bertoux may have submitted a design to some competition, but truth be told, he wasn’t in it for just that prize. In 1892 he introduces patent No. 224,598, and very quickly started getting his inventions produced by a company called Decauville, who became better known soon after for their automobiles. Anyway, shown below is what M. Bertoux’s little passenger seat looked like. Honestly, it seems comfy. Apparently in later models, he added a small contraption that allowed the passenger to take control of the steering if needed, with a small hand lever. That was less popular.Apparently, literal “backseat driving” is even more annoying than the figurative kind.
With the rise of the automobile, these double-wide bicycles started fading from fashion, as more people started driving, and the roads became more crowded. In 1903, a provisional patent was filed by Mr. W. J. Graham for the creation of a very similar device, except this time, instead of carrying a passenger on a bicycle, this was made to go on a Ye-Olde-Timey English Motor Bike. Nine years later, in 1912, a company by the name of Watsonian was conceived. They remain one of the oldest manufacturers of what we lovingly call the “Sidecar”.
The sidecar very quickly became popular in Europe. Fun fact: the auto company Jaguar actually began as “Swallow Sidecar Company”, founded in 1922, and have basically been making beautiful contraptions that can’t move themselves and get towed around by other vehicles ever since. Long-winded automotive burn!!!
1922 is actually an interesting year. It was not long after American prohibition began, so Europe’s drinking culture was getting a shot in the arm from American expats, and two notable books were published, Harry MacElhone’s “Harry’s ABC of Cocktail Mixing” and Robert Vermeire’s “Cocktails: and How to Mix Them”. The thing that makes them both notable for us, is that they both are the first mentions of a drink then and now known as, you guessed it:
In both books, the drink is credited to have come from “MacGarry, famous bartender of Buck’s Club, London”. Now, Buck’s Club was established in 1919, and Pat MacGarry was its first bartender. So, if Harry in Paris and Robert in London are to be believed, than the Side-Car was invented approximately 1920 in London.
There are other accounts that claim it was created in Paris, and Harry MacElhone later revised his books to say that he actually invented it himself. I call bullshit.
That being said, the drink did become more popular in France. Or at least it became MORE quickly popular there, and it became popular using the recipe that was in Robert and Harry’s books, which went something like this:
Fill a shaker half full of cracked ice, then add
- ⅙ gill Cognac Brandy
- ⅙ gill Cointreau
- ⅙ gill Lemon Juice
Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass.
Seriously Barry, what’s a gill?
Even though the drink was invented in London, by an Irishman no less, the popularity of this version in France made it become known as the “French School” recipe. As opposed to the “English School”, which is perhaps epitomized by the Savoy Cocktail Books version, which looks like this:
- ¼ Lemon Juice
- ¼ Cointreau
- ½ Brandy
Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass.
The difference is subtle, but you can see the shift. The English School drink prefers to be more booze forward and dials back on the sour and sweet.
We are making ours “French” style. You should also be making it a “double”. As it would turn out, ⅙ gill is actually 2/3 oz, so let’s round it up a little to 1 1/2 oz. Doesn’t matter too much, so long as you keep the proportions 1:1:1. It has a high Juice/Booze ratio, so you can afford to have a slightly taller drink.
This week, there is a really great alternate, so great, that I honestly might come back to this later, and give it a full TIP… ehem… Anyway, if you’ve got some good absinthe, you should make yourself a Corpse Reviver No. 2.
Or actually, if you’re feeling lazy, just drink tequila.