With a century of history behind it, the Sidecar is probably the most famous of all classic cognac drinks, and it remains a favorite today. Composed of cognac, orange liqueur and fresh lemon juice, it’s tart and dry, balanced by a sugared rim. The drink is a direct descendant of the Brandy Crusta, a long-forgotten New Orleans cocktail that has enjoyed something of a comeback in recent years.
The Sidecar was likely invented around World War One. It graced the pages of two books in 1922: “Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails” by Harry MacElhone and “Cocktails and How to Mix Them” by Robert Vermeire. Both books listed the recipe with equal parts cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice, but subsequent versions switched up the ratios, calling for two parts cognac, one part Cointreau and one part lemon. The latter formula is still common today and is used for this recipe.
The sugared rim is optional when making a Sidecar, but considering that this cocktail lands on the drier side of the sweetness spectrum, a few granules of sugar with each sip provide a welcome treat.
How the Sidecar got its name is a source of debate: Both a French and English bar claim to have invented the cocktail for a customer who arrived at the location in the sidecar of a motorcycle. That seems plausible enough.
Bar veteran Dale DeGroff, however, says the drink’s name references the mixture that’s left in the shaker after straining and served in a shot glass on the side. This little bonus is called, that’s right, a sidecar. You don’t have to serve a little shot alongside your Sidecar, but it’s a sure way to elicit smiles from whoever you’re serving—and it’s a great segue into telling the origin story of the cocktail.
Click Play to See This Sidecar Recipe Come Together
- 1 1/2 ounces cognac
- 3/4 ounce orange liqueur (such as Cointreau)
- 3/4 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- Garnish: orange twist
- Garnish: sugar rim (optional)
Coat the rim of a coupe glass with sugar, if desired, and set aside.
Add all ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into the prepared glass.
Garnish with an orange twist.