The Sidecar Cocktail is among the finest classic cocktails out there. It is a straightforward and well-balanced sour drink. It is a Brandy-based cocktail, which in most cases, means that Cognac is the fundament for a solid Sidecar drink.
Also, the ultimate key to making a delicious Sidecar cocktail is the balance of flavors. Therefore, carefully selected ingredients and the ideal ratios make the perfect Sidecar drink.
So let's take a closer look at the Sidecar Cocktail, its history, and how to make it extra delicious.
The history of the Sidecar drink
The history of the Sidecar cocktail is pretty uncertain. There are multiple stories on how, when, and where it most likely got invented. What all these accounts have in common, though, is the time of invention, which dates around World War I (from 1914 - 1918).
One of the more credible versions of the origin says that the Sidecar drink got invented in a Bistro in Paris, France. This claim can be found in David Embury's "The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks", published in 1948.
Then there's another claim from Paris, more precisely from the Ritz Carlton hotel bar. That version names Frank Meier as the inventor of the cocktail that we all know today as the Sidecar.
Other sources throw in Buck's club in London or Harry's New York Bar (don't let the name confuse you, it is in fact located in the heart of Paris) as possible inventors of the famous Brandy cocktail.
As with many other classic cocktails, it is impossible to tell which of the many stories is closest to the truth.
How the Sidecar Cocktail got its name
There are two different versions of how the Sidecar cocktail got its name.
The first version appears in David Embury's story of the Parisian Bistro that supposedly created the first Sidecar. It says a man who came to the Bistro in the Sidecar of a motorcycle invented the drink.
Veteran bartender Dale DeGroff has his own theory. He claims the name refers to the mix left in the cocktail shaker. Strained and served in a shot glass, this additional drink is a metaphorical sidecar of the actual cocktail.
Ingredients of a Sidecar cocktail
The Sidecar belongs to the group of cocktails made of only three ingredients. The right mix of Brandy, Triple Sec, and lemon juice is enough to create this drink so delicious.
Best Cognac for the Sidecar Cocktail
The base of the Sidecar is usually Cognac. In the past, there were also numerous recipes using Armagnac and also Cherry Brandy on rare occasions.
Over the years, however, publishers of Sidecar recipes more and more agreed on Cognac as the ideal base spirit.
Traditionally the Sidecar is made with expensive luxury Cognac. But the beauty of this cocktail is that it doesn't require a pricy Cognac. Frankly, most of the time, a Cognac in the medium price range works even better.
Strongly aged, top-quality Cognac usually carries beautifully subtle aromas that would be lost when using it in a cocktail. That would be a waste you don't have to worry about when sticking to the mid-price range.
If you're not familiar with the typical Cognac types, here's a short guide. Depending on the age, Cognacs fall in those categories:
- VS / 3 stars - aged for 2 years
- VSOP - aged for 4 years
- Napoléon - aged for 6 years
- XO - aged for 10 years
Some Cognacs of the XO category can be very expensive. Be prepared to pay around $200 or more if you want to purchase a good XO Cognac. But as I said, in a Sidecar drink, a VS or VSOP is absolutely good enough to achieve great results.
Triple Sec is the second essential ingredient of a proper Sidecar. The term Triple Sec does not refer to a specific brand or one distinct spirit, though. It is defining a category of products, just like Brandy does.
For me, Cointreau is usually the Triple Sec of choice. And that's also the case for the Sidecar cocktail. Cointreau offers a beautiful orange aroma and an excellent balance between bitterness and sweetness.
If you want to try something else: Grand Marnier is a heavier Cognac-based style of Triple Sec that emphasizes the base spirit in the Sidecar Cocktail. I still prefer the lighter Cointreau in this case, though.
Regarding the lemon juice, it's needless to say it should be fresh. Make sure to use freshly squeezed juice from ripe lemons, and you will be fine. There is no magic trick required here, just the use of fresh and juicy fruits.
Perfect sugar rim for Sidecar Cocktail
A sugar rim is optional and not strictly necessary for balancing the flavors. But it is a common way to serve a Sidecar Cocktail, and I like that bit of sweetness with this drink.
To get this right, moisten the outside of your glass with a juicy lemon wedge and gently dip the glass into sugar.
Try only coating the outside as you don't want the sugar to fall into your cocktail. Also, make sure to use fine-grained sugar.
Superfine sugar not only sticks better to your glass, but you also swallow less sugar when your drink from it. If you're using regular granulated sugar and add too much, your sugar rim makes the cocktail far too sweet.
There are plenty of riffs and variations on the Sidecar cocktail. The most obvious approach to experiment with the drink would be to use another type of Brandy.
The possibilities are endless, and your could start by trying a Cherry Brandy as some older recipes recommended or Pisco to get a sweeter version of the Sidecar.
Another option is to add a bit of syrup. Some might feel that when prepared by the traditional recipe, the drink is too tart for your taste buds.
Therefore, some drops of syrup work a treat in balancing the Sidecar to their liking. Besides the obvious choice of simple syrup, you could also choose Demerara syrup to add a bit of flavor depth.
A more tropical syrup could also create a nice twist. Why not try a pink dragonfruit syrup to add a hint of sweetness and color.
However, when you opt for some sort of syrup in your Sidecar Cocktail, I recommend dropping the sugar rim in turn.
The best Sidecar Cocktail recipe
For achieving a delicious Sidecar, the right balance and ratio are crucial. Most recipes use two parts of Cognac, one part lemon juice and one part Triple Sec.
While this undoubtedly works, I recommend a slightly different proportion with just slightly more Cognac. That's also what you see in the recipe below.
- 1.75 oz VSOP Cognac
- 0.75 oz Cointreau
- 0.75 oz Freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 dash Angostura bitters (optional)
- Chill your cocktail glass with ice cubes and set it aside.
- Add all ingredients from the list except for the bitters into your cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake until the drink is well chilled.
- Remove the ice cubes from your cocktail glass and rim the glass with sugar.
- Carefully strain your cocktail into your cocktail glass. If wanted, add a few drops of bitters.