The key to making a delicious Sidecar cocktail is the balance of flavors. Carefully selected ingredients and the ideal ratios will get you one of the finest classic sour cocktails out there. It's elegant and refined without being pretentious or overly complicated.
Quick Facts Sidecar Cocktail
- Method: shaken
- Flavor profile: sour, boozy
- How to serve it: straight up
- Best glassware: coupe glass
- Alcohol content: ~ 25% ABV, 19 grams of alcohol per serving
So let's take a closer look at the Sidecar Cocktail, its history, and how to make it extra delicious.
- 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.1.75 oz VSOP Cognac, 0.75 oz Cointreau, 0.75 oz Freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 dash Angostura bitters
- 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.
Ingredients of the 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 are enough to create something outstanding:
- Brandy: For most classic craft cocktails, brandy-based usually implies cognac - and this is also the fundament for a great Sidecar drink. In the past, some recipes asked for Armagnac or cherry brandy on rare occasions. However, cognac is the traditional choice - and also the best.
- Triple sec: The term triple sec does not refer to a specific brand or one spirit. It is a category of products, just like brandy. For us, Cointreau is the bottle of choice for the Sidecar recipe. It offers a beautiful orange aroma and an excellent balance between bitter and sweet. If you want to try something else: Grand Marnier is a cognac-based version emphasizing the base spirit. We still prefer the lighter Cointreau in this case, though.
- Lemon juice: needless to say, the lemon juice for such a refined concoction should be fresh. Make sure you squeeze it from ripe lemons to get a fantastic Sidecar Cocktail.
- Bitters: A dash of Angostura's aromatic bitters brings some extra depth of flavor but is purely optional.
Best Cognac for the Sidecar Cocktail
Traditionally the Sidecar is made with expensive luxury Cognac. However, the beauty of this cocktail is that it really doesn't require one of the crazy expensive bottles. We even found that Cognac in the medium price range works better with this recipe.
Still, cognac, in general, is a premium spirit and doesn't come cheap. We like the V.S.O.P. from Remy Martini ($70 - $75) or the V.S. from Hennessy ($60) - both favourites among many fellow bartenders as well.
If you're not familiar with these terms, here's a short guide. Depending on the age, you can categorize cognac as:
- V.S. / 3 stars - aged for two years
- V.S.O.P. - aged for four years
- Napoléon - aged for six years
- X.O. - aged for ten years
Cognacs of the X.O. category can be very expensive. Be prepared to pay around $200 or more for a good bottle.
But again, for the Sidecar drink, a V.S. or V.S.O.P. is absolutely sufficient. Why? Extensively aged, top-shelf cognac displays a nuanced aroma that gets lost in cocktails. It would simply be a waste of money.
Sugar Rim for the Sidecar
A sugar rim is optional and not strictly necessary for balancing the flavors. Nonetheless, it is a common way to serve the Sidecar Cocktail, and I like that bit of sweetness with this otherwise dry drink.
We recommend superfine sugar. It sticks well to your glass, and you will swallow less of it while drinking. If you're using regular granulated sugar and add too much, your sugar rim might make the cocktail too sweet.
To get the rim right, moisten the outside of your glass with a juicy lemon wedge and gently dip the glass into sugar. Try only coating the outside because you don't want the sugar to fall into your cocktail. Also, make sure to use fine-grained sugar.
More Tips & Tricks
For achieving a delicious Sidecar, the right balance and ratio are crucial. Many recipes use two parts of cognac, one part lemon juice, and one part triple sec. While this works fine, we prefer a slightly different approach with a little more emphasis on the cognac.
Either way, you should use plenty of ice when prepping this drink and shake for no less than 10 seconds to achieve the required dilution from the melting ice. The recipe is quite boozy. Hence, you need that for the right balance.
Since the drink is served straight up, we also recommend chilling your glass; either in the freezer or with some ice cubes, which you discard before pouring your Sidecar.
There are plenty of riffs and variations on the Sidecar recipe. The most obvious approach to experiment with the drink would be using another type of brandy.
The possibilities are endless, and your could start by trying a Cherry Brandy like older recipes recommend or Pisco to get a sweeter version.
Another option is to add a bit of syrup, especially when you don't want to apply sugar to the rim of your glass:
Some might feel the traditional recipe is too tart for your taste buds. In these cases, a couple of drops of syrup work a treat in adjusting the balance of the Sidecar. Besides the obvious choice of simple syrup, you could try Demerara syrup for a richer taste.
And don't forget: when you opt for syrup, drop the sugar rim in turn.
History of the Sidecar Drink
The history of the Sidecar Cocktail is pretty hazy. 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 frame, which was around World War I, between 1914 and 1918.
One of the more likely tales of the origin says that the Sidecar drink got invented in a Bistro in Paris, France. You can find this story 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 know as the Sidecar today. - By the way, a special Sidecar at Ritz Paris, made with cognac from the mid-1800s, is among the 5 most expensive cocktails worldwide.
Other sources throw in Buck's Club in London or the famous Harry's New York Bar in Paris as possible birthplaces of the sophisticated brandy cocktail.
As for 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 is 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.
More Brandy Cocktails
If you're looking for more brandy cocktails you can easily mix at home, check out these recipes: