A Sidecar Cocktail is just the drink to make with that lovely bottle of French cognac Santa got you for Christmas. Shaken and served in an icy cold glass, every sip is rich, citrusy, and smooth as silk.
The party’s not over yet! Browse some other classic cocktail recipes and get your home bar ready for the year. Or make a batch of Pink Lemonade Vodka Slush, or Pirate Punch, both fun cocktails that are easy to make for larger groups of revelers.
What's in a Sidecar? Brandy or cognac, mixed with lemon juice, orange liqueur, and shaken with lots of ice. But the story doesn’t end there. When it comes to classic cocktails, it never does!
In fact, you could probably visit ten different bars and order Sidecars in all of them, only to get a slightly different drink every time.
That’s because almost every bartender tends to make this cocktail in their own special way, tweaking the proportions and ingredients ever so slightly. Consequently, everything is up for grabs: how much cognac, what kind of orange liqueur, simple syrup— or none at all?
Certainly, you can serve the drink with a sugared rim, or leave it bare. By the way, sugar wasn’t added to the drink recipe until the 1930s, so it is entirely up to you. It sure is pretty, though. Maybe half a rim coated in sugar, so you can try it both ways? Chalk it up to research and development. Just try and space those ten "experiments" out over the course of a few weeks!
Making Sidecar cocktails for a thirsty crowd? Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
Sidecar cocktail history:
Most famous cocktails have at least a couple versions of how they were invented, and the origin of the Sidecar is no different.
Maybe the drink was named after the motorcycle sidecar, was most likely invented around World War I in Paris or London.
Another theory insists that the sidecar was the term for the last bit of cocktail left in the shaker. A good bartender would pour out into the top of the shaker and serve next to the drink--a little sidecar of sorts.
The Ritz Hotel in Paris proudly claims the origin of the cocktail, but so do a handful of other bars: Buck’s Club in London, and Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. Yes, there's a New York bar in France.
And if that’s not confusing enough, there are thought to be two “schools” of thought regarding the recipe for the drink.
- The French School, which uses equal parts cognac, cointreau, and lemon juice. This version is pretty sweet.
- The English School, which uses two parts cognac, and one part each of cointreau and lemon juice.
Sidecar Cocktail glass:
Serve a Sidecar in a coupe or a small martini glass, the prettier the better.
What do you use as a Sidecar Cocktail garnish?
Take your pick: a lemon twist, an orange twist, or a sugared rim around the glass.
Sidecar cocktail ingredients:
- Cognac or brandy. The difference between cognac and brandy is that cognac must be made in the Cognac region of France. Brandy, however, can be made anywhere. Hennessy, Korbel, Presidente, are all fine choices for a mixed drink.
- Orange liqueur. Triple Sec, Curaçao, Cointreau, even Grand Marinier.
- Lemon juice. Fresh squeezed, please!
- Ice. Most all cocktails require ice, but this one especially so, to mix the flavors together and open up the drink.
How to make a Sidecar cocktail:
As you become familiar with the recipe for a classic Sidecar, you can make your own adjustments based on your particular tastes. If the drink is too puckery for you, for example, tone down the lemon juice by adding more brandy. Not sweet enough? Add a bar spoon of simple syrup and sweeten it up.
In cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine Cognac, Cointreau, and lemon juice. Then shake vigorously until chilled, about 30 seconds. Strain into chilled martini or coupe glass and serve.
How to sugar the rim of a glass:
You should do this before filling the glass, and after chilling it.
Spread some sugar on small plate. Then rub a lemon wedge around the rim of chilled martini or coupe glass. While still moist, tilt the side of the glass in the sugar to lightly coat the outside rim of glass.
You want the sugar to be where your lips touch, not where it can fall into the cocktail and sweeten it even more.
Sidecar Cocktail variations:
Classic cocktails mean more classic cocktails--especially for the Sidecar.
- Hennessy Sidecar cocktail. Uses Hennessy cognac as the "call" liquor.
- Sidecar cocktail, Grand Mariner. A "higher" shelf cocktail, made with rich and delicious orange-flavored Grand Marnier.
- Blackberry Sidecar. A Sidecar made with blackberry brandy.
- Boston Sidecar. A Sidecar made with rum and brandy in equal parts--the same drink as Between the Sheets, sort of a daiquiri/sidecar combo. You can use lime juice instead of lemon juice.
- Chelsea Sidecar. (aka Delilah or White Lady) Uses gin instead of brandy or cognac.
- Epicé Sidecar. This little tipple calls for jalapeño and brown sugar simple syrup and pineapple juice in place of Cointreau.
- Pisco Sidecar. A Peruvian sugar cane brandy, Pisco, stands in for the brandy and does a fine, fine job.
Sidercar Cocktail Recipe
- 1 1/2 ounces cognac or brandy (3 tablespoons)
- 3/4 ounce orange liqueur or triple sec (1 1/2 tablespoons)
- 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice (1 1/2 tablespoons)
- Ice as needed
- 1 orange twist for garnish, optional
- Chill glassware if desired: Coat the outside of a glass with water and freeze until serving time. Or, freeze dry glassware for 2 to 3 hours before serving.
- To coat the rim of glass: Run a lemon wedge around the top of a glass. Then, dip the top of the glass upside-down in a shallow dish of sugar.
- Combine cognac, orange liqueur, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker. Fill shaker with ice, cover, and shake until outside of shaker is very cold, about 20 seconds.
- Strain cocktail into prepared glass and garnish with an orange twist.