Cocktail Recipes/ Party

Sidecar Cocktail Recipe

15 September 2021 By Aleksandra

Sidecar cocktail is a classic sour cocktail that has a distinctive flavor and tastes bright and refreshing. It’s made with only 3 ingredients and it’s quite strong but so delicious. If you’re looking for a cocktail with cognac or orange liquor (like Cointreau) you have to try this recipe!

A coupe glass with sidecar cocktail on a grey stone board. A shaker and liqueur bottle in the background.

About the recipe

The sidecar cocktail is a classic, old-fashioned cocktail that you need to try! I actually tried this cocktail only because my husband got a bottle of cognac as a gift and I didn’t know what to do with it. I’m so happy I’ve found this cocktail – it has become one of my favorites!

It’s tart and dry but also refreshing. The sour cocktail combined with a lemony sugar rim provides a delightful contrast of flavors. The sweet and sour flavors are perfectly balanced.

Sidecar cocktail is so easy to make and what’s the best thing about it, it’s made with 2 ingredients that have a long shelf life (orange liquor and cognac) and lemons which I always have in my fridge so I can make this cocktail without planning ahead!

If you’re not really a cognac drinker and you’re wondering if it’s a good idea to buy a whole bottle of cognac just to make this drink, my answer is – yes! Really, you will use the whole bottle just for this cocktail, making it again and again.. – it’s just that delicious!

History of the sidecar cocktail

The Sidecar was likely invented around World War I in either Paris or London. One story claims it was developed in Harry’s New York Bar in Paris for a customer who arrived at the location in the sidecar of a motorcycle.

According to another story, it was invented in a bar in London by a bartender who may have named it after the leftover cocktail in a shaker often served in a little cup next to a larger drink.

Ingredients and tools needed to prepare this cocktail

Labeled ingredients needed to prepare a sidecar cocktail.
Tools needed to prepare a sidecar cocktail.

Ingredients

You need only 3 ingredients to make this delicious sidecar cocktail

Cognac – Cognac is a type of French brandy made in regions surrounding the town of Cognac. It’s aged for at least 2 years.

Brandy is a distilled spirit made from fruit juice (it’s most commonly made from grape juice). The fruit juice is fermented to make a fruit wine. The wine is then distilled to make brandy, which is then aged.

What cognac is best for a sidecar? I would recommend a VSOP Cognac for this recipe which means it was aged for 4 years.

Good cognac brands are Rémy Martin, Hennessy, or Camus.

Grades of Cognac (what do the abbreviations on the bottle mean):

  • *** (3-Star) or VS (Very Special): it must be aged for at least two years in oak.
  • VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale): it must be aged for at least four years.
  • Napoléon, XO (Extra Old), Extra, or Hors d’age: it must be aged for at least six years on oak, but on average, these brandies are 20 years old or more.

Alternatives for cognac: other types of brandy, for example, Armagnac (a brandy produces in the Armagnac region of France), Champagne Cognac (it’s produced in the Champagne region of France), Pisco (south American unaged brandy), or any other brandy.

What is the difference between cognac and brandy? Cognac is a type of brandy that is produced specifically in the Cognac region of France while Brandy can be made anywhere in the world.

Orange Liquor – such as Cointreau, Grand Marnier, or Triple Sec.

My favorite orange liqueur is Cointreau and this is what I recommend for this recipe. It has a great balance of bitter and sweet. Other brands, like Triple Sec, can have a more harsh flavor.

Lemon juice – only freshly squeezed, don’t use the bottled stuff!

Sugared rim – Additionally, you will need lemon juice and fine sugar for the sugar rim. Sugar rim is not optional in my opinion. Without it, the cocktail would be a little bit too sour, plus I really love this contrast of sour cocktail with the sugared rim. A sugar rim helps to balance the sourness of the cocktail. Each sip is such a delightful experience!

You can also use granulated sugar for the rim but I prefer fine sugar (also called baker’s sugar or caster sugar, it’s not the same as powdered sugar!) as it sticks better to the glass. Regular, granulated sugar tends to fall into the drink.
Ice cubes – they are only used to chill the cocktail but some of the ice dissolves diluting the cocktail.

What tools do you need:

  • A cocktail shaker – to shake all the ingredients with ice. If you don’t have a coctail shaker any jar that can be tightly closed will also do!
  • A jigger to measure out the ingredients. If you don’t have a jigger you can measure out the ingredients with a shot glass which usually measures 1 1/2 fluid ounces. You may also want to check your egg cups! I measured mine and it holds exactly 30ml which is 1 fluid ounce!
  • A glass for sidecar cocktail: traditionally a cocktail glass is used for this cocktail. It can be a conical martini glass or a coupe glass that is shown on the photos.

Ingredient ratios

The original recipe calls for equal parts cognac, Cointreau, and lemon juice. I changed these ratios: I added more cognac for its caramelized fruit and citrus notes and reduced the amount of lemon juice a bit. This drink was a little bit too sour for me.

Play with the ratios to adjust the recipe to your taste. When making this drink, it’s very important to find the balance between sweet and sour flavors. It may need to be adjusted depending on the brands and styles of brandy you use.

Please bear in mind that the proportions of the ingredients are adjusted to a drink with a sugar rim. If you omit the rim, the cocktail won’t be balanced. The sugared rim is a must in my opinion! If you do choose to omit it, try to add some simple syrup to sweeten the cocktail.

If you have tried this cocktail with the sugared rim in the past and you didn’t like tasting a mouthful of sugar after taking a sip, please note that when using superfine sugar and not granulated sugar, this is not the case!

How to make simple syrup: combined equal amounts of sugar and water, heat until the sugar is dissolved then cool.

How to make it step by step

Ice cubes are being added into a shaker. Cognac is being added into a shaker.

STEP 1: Add ice cubes into a cocktail shaker.

STEP 2: Measure out cognac and add to the shaker.

Orange liqueur is being added into a shaker. Lemon juice is being added into a shaker.

STEP 3: Measure out orange liquor and add to the shaker.

STEP 4: Measure out the lemon juice and add to the shaker.

Cocktail is being shaken in a shaker. A rim of a coupe glass is being rubbed with lemon quarter.

STEP 5: Close the shaker and shake for 10-20 seconds, until well-chilled.

STEP 6: Make lemon sugar rim: Use a lemon wedge to run around the outside of the rim.

A coupe glass is being dipped into superfine sugar. A sidecar cocktail is being strained into a cocktail glass.

STEP 7: Spread the sugar on a flat plate and dip the glass in the sugar.

STEP 8: Strain the cocktail into the prepared glass.

Garnish the drink: Peel the lemon/orange rind in a thick ribbon using a vegetable peeler. Twist gently and place the strip on the glass.

Serve and enjoy!

Recipe variations

There are many cocktails with a very fundamental formula of base liquor, orange liqueur, and citrus juice.

Swap the cognac for bourbon – the drink will now be called a bourbon sidecar.

Pisco sidecar – use South American brandy pisco instead of cognac.

Balalaika cocktail – vodka is being used instead of cognac.

Delilah cocktail – uses gin instead of cognac.

Classic Margarita – is made with tequila, orange liqueur, and lime juice.

Between the Sheets cocktail – rum and brandy are used instead of cognac.

Whiskey sidecar – uses whiskey instead of cognac.

A coupe glass with sidecar cocktail on a grey stone board. A shaker and liqueur bottle in the background.

Did you make this recipe? RATE THE RECIPE or tell me in the COMMENTS how you liked it! You can also add a photo of your dish. It would make me very happy and will help other readers. Thank you!!

Sidecar Cocktail Recipe

Sidecar cocktail is a classic sour cocktail that has a distinctive flavor and tastes bright and refreshing. It’s made with only 3 ingredients and it’s quite strong but so delicious. If you’re looking for a cocktail with cognac or orange liquor (like Cointreau) you have to try this recipe!
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A coupe glass with sidecar cocktail on a grey stone board. A shaker and liqueur bottle in the background.
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Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 1 cocktail
Calories 183kcal
Author Aleksandra

Ingredients

for the cocktail:

  • 1 1/2 oz cognac (45ml)
  • 1 oz orange liquor such as Cointreau (30ml)
  • 3/4 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice 22ml

additionally:

  • 1 lemon quarter
  • 1 tablespoon superfine sugar
  • small handfull ice cubes

Instructions

  • Add ice cubes into a cocktail shaker.
  • Measure out cognac, orange liquor, and lemon juice and add to the shaker.
  • Close the shaker and shake for 10-20 seconds, until well-chilled.
  • Make lemon sugar rim: Use a lemon wedge to run around the outside of the rim. Spread the sugar on a flat plate and dip the glass in the sugar.
  • Strain the cocktail into the prepared glass.
  • Garnish with a twist or slice of lemon/orange.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Notes

  • You can cut lemon/orange zest over the drink – the aromatic citrus oils will fall straight to the drink.
  • You can use a fine-mesh strainer to strain the drink if you don’t want any lemon particles in your drink.
  • A glass for a sidecar cocktail: traditionally a cocktail glass is used for this cocktail. It can be a conical martini glass or a coupe glass that is shown on the photos.
  • Play with the ratios to adjust the recipe to your taste. When making this drink, it’s very important to find the balance between sweet and sour flavors. It may need to be adjusted depending on the brands and styles of brandy (I used a VSOP Cognac for this recipe) and orange liqueur you use.
  • I used Cointreau orange liqueur for this recipe. You can also use other brands of orange liqueur for this recipe, such as Triple Sec, Grand Marnier but you may need to adjust the measurements of the ingredients as these liqueurs have different levels of sweetness. Triple Sec also tastes more harsh than Cointreau.
  • Please bear in mind that the proportions of the ingredients are adjusted to a drink with a  sugar rim. If you omit the rim, the cocktail won’t be balanced. The sugared rim is a must in my opinion! If you do choose to omit it, try to add some simple syrup to sweeten the cocktail.
  • If you have tried this cocktail with the sugared rim in the past and you didn’t like tasting a mouthful of sugar after taking a sip, please note that when using superfine sugar and not granulated sugar, this is not the case!
  • Calories = 1 cocktail. This is only an estimate!
Course cocktail
Cuisine American
Keyword sidecar cocktail, sidecar cocktail recipe, sidecar drink

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