Weekly Cocktail #31: The Sidecar

The Sidecar Cocktail.

There are few more “classic” cocktails than the Sidecar. A simple, but delicious, combination of brandy, Cointreau and lemon juice, the Sidecar is a very easy cocktail to enjoy. Everything else about the drink, however, is not so simple.

As is often the case with “classic” cocktails, the history, ingredients and proportions are all hard to pin down. The Sidecar was “probably” invented after World War I in “either” the Ritz Hotel in Paris or the Bucks Club in London and “likely” named after the sidecar on a motorcycle. That clears up everything.

And when we get to the proportions of the ingredients of the Sidecar, the picture doesn’t come into focus either. Some recipes suggest equal proportions of the brandy, Cointreau and lemon, some go very heavy on brandy and light on lemon, and some follow a 2:1:1 formula. Cocktail geeks writers spend a lot of time on this stuff (a quick Google search will give you more on the subject than you will ever need), but they do get the benefit of “testing” the recipes. We suggest a starting point of 2 ounces of brandy to 3/4 ounces each Cointreau and lemon juice.

While there is less confusion about the base ingredients of the Sidecar, there is room for experimentation. Brandies vary widely, but most recipes suggest a VS or better Cognac or Armagnac (we like Armagnac). But even among brands, the flavors will vary and may require changing the recipe slightly for your tastes. You can also experiment with other triple secs or Curaçao to replace the Cointreau. We like Pierre Ferrand for a slightly drier flavor. But the Cointreau does work very well. And you may, or may not, want to add sugar to the rim of the glass. We like the drink either way, but the sugar rim is pretty and you can do it ahead of time and impress your guests.

As for the flavor of the Sidecar, the brandy, sweet orange and lemon flavors all blend into a light citrus sip with just enough sweetness to keep you coming back. You get all the flavor of the brandy, but without any rough edges. The Sidecar is an easy drink to enjoy, even if you don’t often drink brandy. The only problem with the Sidecar is that they are almost too easy to drink and you could get into a little trouble after a few. That is something all the historians seem to agree on.

The Sidecar:

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. good Cognac or Armagnac
  • 3/4 oz. Cointreau (substitute quality triple sec or Curaçao)
  • 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • Sugar, for rimming glass (optional)

Assemble:

  1. Run a wedge of lemon around the edge of the glass and then rotate the edge of the glass in the sugar. Shake off any excess and let dry for a few minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, combine all the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into the sugar-rimmed glass (if using). Serve.
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9 thoughts on “Weekly Cocktail #31: The Sidecar

  1. Mmm, one of my favorite cocktails. So sad that many bartenders haven’t heard of this drink in Portland, not hipster enough.

  2. The Sidecar was the first classic cocktail I got into. At the time, I made them ‘French style’ – 1:1:1 and I think that’s a fine start point for beginners. Rimming the glass with sugat, you can put it in the freezer and it hardens nicely and you get your glass well chilled too.

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  6. This is my signature drink i foud this watching ina garten and always trying to find a better way to make it this skunds deliuse.

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