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Best Classic Sidecar Recipe
The English variation demands more cognac, but this is the original French recipe, which we think is loveliest: equal parts of each ingredient means a perfect balance of flavors — and a lower alcohol content. That may not sound ideal, but trust us when we say that the sidecar’s punch has a tendency to sneak up on you.
- ¾ Ounce Cointreau
- ¾ Ounce lemon juice
- ¾ Ounce cognac
Calories Per Serving102
Folate equivalent (total)4µg1%
Love sour cocktails but want to change up your whiskey sour? Try this Bourbon Sidecar! The Sidecar is one of the most classic of all sour cocktails. Change the brandy to bourbon, and you’ve got a whole new drink! This one trades the fruitiness of brandy for the spicy sweet finish of bourbon whiskey. Alex and I are big whiskey sour fans, but we love changing it up with the Sidecar: it’s even more refreshing and citrus forward than its cousin cocktail. Here’s how to make it!
Ah, I used to have to explain to bartenders how to make a sidecar. It has now arrived! The best (and I never had to explain it there, of course) is at the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis, NY.
I enjoy a sidecar when we go out to dinner. This recipe comes pretty darn close to my favorite ones. I like the differences in each restaurant's side car and this one fits into my favorites lists.
Excellent, very strong but well balanced. I used a cheaper orange liquor because cointreu was a bit out of my budget, and I didn't have the sugar. It's great even with the cheaper one. As a sidenote someone lwft a poor review because they said that it ruins the taste of a good cognac, this is meant to be made with mixing cognac, your like SO or VSOP (I used a vsop) if you are using Napoleon or above cognac then don't make a cocktail, it's meant to be drank straight at that point.
Gorgeous. A dash of orange bitters does not go amiss in this recipe.
I had never had a Sidecar but thought Iɽ give it a go and was very pleased with the result. A nice balance of flavors, the fresh lemon juice with the hint of sugar from the rim-delicious!
Classic cocktail and one of my favorites. Do NOT use bourbon or rye, only cognac and do NOT use Triple Sec, only Cointreau. You can adjust the amounts but I prefer this recipe. But be careful. they will sneak up on you!
Sidecars are fantastic! Most bartenders I meet don't know how to make them. I use armagnac instead of cognac typically. I also use Freshies Brand Sweet n Sour Lemon Squeeze instead of lemon juice (it is made from juice).
Use cinnamon sugar to rim the glass
I do enjoy a good Cognac. However, this drink ruins the flavors that good Cognac has to offer. Very disappointed.
OK, Iɽ make it again if I could stand up! Very strong but good.
This is my favorite non-margarita drink by far, and always gets interesting looks from bartenders. I also feel like I belong in another era ) WHATEVER YOU DO, don't let anyone serve you a 'Sidecar' with cheap brandy, or rye (tho I heard bourbon or whiskey is OK?) or lime juice - some have tried! THE BEST by far is in NYC's Blue Smoke or downstairs' Jazz Standard - it's on their menu - and they make it soooo well!
I am so happy to see this recipe! The Sidecar was my mother's favorite cocktail and this is the absolute BEST recipe. I always feel cool, elegant and almost of another time when I drink one of these. You will love it. I rim the entire glass with the sugar. Yummy!
Sidecar Cocktail Recipe
Some of the greatest drinks in the mixological canon are deceptive in their simplicity. Consider the Old Fashioned, the Daiquiri, the gin Martini—preparing a cup of coffee in the morning is more complicated than making these drinks. But through the basic combination of two or three ingredients, with some ice thrown in for excitement, a perfect match of flavors can be achieved.
Add another drink to this list: the Sidecar. As with most cocktails, the origins of the drink are hazy (be suspicious of those who state with certainty when or where the Sidecar was first mixed), but this entrancing mixture of brandy, lemon juice and orange liqueur started making the rounds in the most fashionable watering holes in London and Paris during the 1920s. Very simple in structure, the Sidecar is complex enough in flavor to satisfy even the most jaded palates, but not so over-the-top with mixological gewgaws as to frighten away the casual tippler.
Two quick things to consider when mixing a Sidecar: first, quality matters. Use a cheap mass-market brandy or a cut-rate triple sec, and your Sidecar's gonna suck.
This is a time when you want to break out a nice (but not outrageously old or expensive) VSOP cognac, a good Armagnac or an excellent California brandy such as Germain-Robin. For the orange liqueur, pretty much only Cointreau has the right mixture of dryness and sweetness to make a Sidecar sing (and as for the lemon, just make sure it's fresh and tasty).
Second: Feel free to tinker with the proportions. Early recipes call for equal amounts of the three ingredients, which is way too boring for most people. Many guides call for a 2:1:1 ratio of brandy:lemon:Cointreau, but for some, that's too tart. I'm going with a tad more Cointreau than lemon, to help everything hold in balance—but I encourage you to do as I did, and wiggle with the proportions to find the mix that's right for your taste.
Place some sugar on a small plate. Moisten half of rim of a coupe glass with a little lemon juice and dip into sugar shake off excess. Set aside.
Combine brandy, triple sec, and remaining ¾ oz. lemon juice in a cocktail shaker. Fill shaker with ice, cover, and shake vigorously until outside of shaker is very cold, about 20 seconds.
Strain cocktail through a Hawthorne strainer or a slotted spoon into reserved glass.
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Followed the proportions with precision. Used Maker's Mark. Am enjoying it as I type this with my husband. The world is a perfect place at this moment.
Just to weigh in on the whole proportion thing, for me it's 1 1/2 oz brandy, 3/4 oz triple sec, 3/4 oz lemon juice with a half tsp of fruit sugar. A favourite cocktail of mine.
For several years now the Sidecar has been my favourite winter drink.After experimenting with many variants on the proportion I've settled on 2 parts brandy 1 part cointreau one part lemon juice for a 4 oz drink. shake well. I use a French brandy marquis de villiard, but when I'm feeling flush I move up to cognac like Hennessey VS as I believe the original calls for cognac. It does move it to another level, but a good French brandy also works nicely. mmmmm I think I know what I'm doing when I finish work today -)
A perfect Sidecar recipe and I did soooo love Pietro's when I lived in Manhattan. Thanks!
My grandpa who used to own Pietro's in Manhattan made the best sidecars and I still use his recipe to this day. He used one part brandy (or even cognac), one part cointreau, one part grand marnier and one part lemon juice. The trick is to shake in a shaker for at least 2 or 3 full minutes so that it gets really cold and frothy and delicious. He even sometimes put in an egg white for extra froth and foam.
Wonderful but perfection when the rim is dipped in orange juice and then in sugar.
I disagree with the portions on this recipe - I prefer 1 1/2 oz brandy, 3/4 oz lemon juice, 3/4 oz Cointreau. Makes for a much more traditional-tasting flavor and I believe it's closer to the original intent of the cocktail. Wonderful with Germain-Robin alambic brandy from Mendocino, California!
This is my new favorite winter drink. (it used to be the Manhattan, which is still nothing to sneeze at!) I don't usually put as much lemon juice though, but love the sugared rim. I also add a lemon rind curl which has been coated with sugar to the edge of the glass. Delicious and festive!
Would I make this drink again?Yes!And I already did!Haa haa hooo!
The brandy makes it a great cocktail for winter. It has been my recent substitute for the more "summery" lemon drop martini.
The tequila version of this drink is great (substitute tequila for brandy)
The Sidecar, an old fashioned drink that many bartenders seem to have forgotten, is my absolute favorite cocktail. The secret between a Sidecar that is too strong and one that is just right is to have plenty of lemon juice. The drink makes a great presentation when the rim of the martini glass has a sugared rim. A colored sugar (yellow or orange)is even funner! Move over Cosmo, the Sidecar is much more elegant.
This is a good recipe, and correct about using less lemon juice if you use more brandy. The best Sidecar in the world is at Brigtsen's in New Orleans. We hope and pray the restaurant will reopen soon!
The Classic Sidecar has been one of my favorite drinks for 30 or more years. Try this variation for a summer treat: 1 oz Brandy 3/4 oz MinuteMaid frozen lemonade concentrate instead of lemon juice and 3/4 oz Controy, a Mexican orange liqueur, in place of Cointreau. Then serve the whole thing either blender frozen or over cracked ice in a glass moistened with Orange Juice and rimmed with Raw Sugar. A little sweeter, but mmmmmm-mmm.
This is a great drink! I also recommend making a variation called a Cable Car, which is made with spiced rum instead of brandy and has a cinnamon-sugar rim. As another person mentioned, the key is keeping it small-the balance between the alcohols, lemon and sugar needs to be right. We used the Cable Car as our signature drinking for an October wedding and everybody loved them.
This is my FAVORITE cocktail! I've had many good ones, but two outstanding ones. the first, at Shintaro (the excellent Japanese restaurant at Bellagio in Las Vegas), could best be described as "other-worldly." The second, at the Grand Concourse in Pittsburgh, was sheer perfection. BOTH were made with Triple Sec (instead of Cointreau), which I believe adds a certain depth and nuance to the cocktail. (See. I TOLD you it was my favorite!) I've also had wonderful, large sidecars at the bar at Kokkari in San Francisco.
The sidecar is one of my favorite cocktails. Very few bartenders get it right, anmely the drink is too large to really enjoy. This is the perfect proportioned sidecar cocktail.
The Classic Sidecar Cocktail Recipe
1.5 oz cognac, or other aged grape brandy
0.75 oz lemon juice
0.75 oz sweet orange liqueur, e.g. Grand Marnier
Shake with ice, strain into (an optionally sugar rimmed) coupe. Garnish with a lemon wedge or twist.
Morphing the above into a rum-based Sidecar sounds simple (“Use rum instead of cognac!”) until you get to selecting the right rum. You weren’t going to just grab that bottle of Bacardi Superior, were you?
The Sidecar is an unusual sour in that it utilizes a full-bodied, aged spirit: cognac. The typical sour uses a light, unaged, or lightly aged spirit like gin, blanco tequila, or pisco. In contrast, cognac brings a certain heft and gravitas to the Sidecar. Ideally, the rum we replace it with has similar characteristics. There’s an enormous palette of rums to choose from, so where should you start?
Looking at the Sidecar holistically, it’s clearly French influenced. Cognac is the canonical French spirit, and the vast majority of high-end orange liqueurs like Grand Marnier and Cointreau are of French origin. Even the lemon is more associated with France than is lime, which is most often associated with tropical locales. So when pondering which rum to use, French rum (ahem, “rhum”) springs to mind as a starting point.
For your first foray into a Rum Sidecar, it’s best to ease gently into the French influence. Jason Alexander, owner of Tacoma’s Devil’s Reef, suggested this recipe when asked to share his thoughts on a rummy Sidecar:
Jason’s recipe plays perfectly into the French theme. While not distilled in France, Plantation Barbados 5 does spend time in France in ex-cognac casks. Keeping things in the family, the Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao is also made in France by the same company. Take note that while the recipe uses twice as much lemon juice as dry curacao, the sweet-sour ratio is maintained by the powdered sugar. (This recipe would also work quite well with other moderately-aged dry rums like Mount Gay Eclipse or the new Bacardi Cuatro.)
While Jason’s Sidecar is refined and very approachable for almost any cocktail lover, the hardcore rhum agricole aficionado may enjoy a Sidecar where characteristic aged rhum agricole notes stand out a bit more boldly. Aged agricole rhums from Martinique and Guadeloupe are among some of the best cane spirits made, but they don’t garner the mind or market share of the bigger players like Bacardi, Mount Gay, Appleton, or Havana Club. You may have to look a little harder for French rhum brands like St. James, Clément, J.M, Damoiseau, and Neisson, but they’re worth the effort.
French rhums are widely available in both unaged and aged versions. While unaged rhum makes for a fabulous Ti’ Punch, we want something aged for our Sidecar. Nothing crazy old and super expensive—just a few years will do. It’s also worth noting that, by law, cognac must be aged in French oak casks, whereas rhum agricoles have more leeway and may spend time in American oak rather than French.
If you’re a rhum agricole fan, try this recipe:
Side by side, the age-induced components of the Select Barrel turn the harmonious, barbershop quartet blend of Jason’s Plantation Barbados Sidecar into a powerhouse vocalist with backup singers. And if the tannins of French oak aren’t your thing, look for aged agricole with less oak influence like Neisson Élevé Sous Bois. Or, heck, go wild, ignore what I said earlier, and try it with unaged agricole such as Duquesne Rhum Blanc.
As with all recipes, proportions are a very personal thing. One person’s overly boozy nightmare is another’s well-balanced tipple. Experiment with different proportions and different rums to find what fits your palate. There’s no need to stick with French-style rhums either. The aged and filtered rums like Banks 5 Island and Plantation 3 Stars will also work well in a Sidecar.
Rum has an incredible range of flavor profiles, and with the classic combination of lemon juice and orange liqueur putting down a backing track, any number of rums can step up to the microphone to make the perfect Sidecar.
What Should a Sidecar Really Taste Like?
I don’t order Sidecars. Either too boozy, too tart or too sweet (abetted by that sugar rim), the Sidecar is to the cocktail canon what Beef Bourguignon or Chicken Kiev or Sauerbraten is to the food world: a menu item with a pedigree and a tremendous reputation for excellence, that, when you finally order it, does not even begin to live up to that reputation.
Most cocktail connoisseurs disagree with me, of course. But it’s my belief that every cocktail geek out there harbors a secret dislike for one of the classics. The Sidecar just happens to be mine.
Robert Hess, one of the early apostles from the cocktail revival’s Old Testament, told me a story of when he was putting together a cocktail book for the Museum of the American Cocktail. When he got to the Sidecar, he asked a collection of knowing bartenders and drink historians for their personal specifications.
“Everyone had a slightly different recipe for a Sidecar,” Hess recalled. “[But] they should taste different—they should be the same drink, but taste different. That’s where the culinary skill and taste comes in. It has to be a particular flavor.”
But what was that particular flavor?
“Well, here we have this old recipe made with French brandy. Therefore it should have this velvet flavor, rather than this sharp lemon flavor. I wanted something with more sophistication to it.” Hess called what he was after less a flavor profile, than “more of a mindset.” A mindset?
“It should taste like a Sidecar,” he summarized. A Sidecar should taste like a Sidecar? Deep.
In today’s over-exercised cocktail world, nearly every classic has been hoisted up the hydraulic, its insides given the thrice over by ardent bartenders intent on making the old jalopy hum again. And they’ve succeeded again and again. We are currently enjoying some of the most perfectly perfected Old-Fashioneds, Manhattans, Mai Tais and Daiquiris in history. But the Sidecar remains a bit of a clunker, a drink neglected enough that it’s managed to avoid the same exacting level of restoration in an era bent on it.
This is partly because of its status as an afterthought classic. Nobody makes this cocktail their calling card. You hear of plenty of bars renowned for their Martini or their Irish Coffee. These classic cocktails benefit from not only the loving touch of careful, concerned bartenders, but also dedicated drinkers who make those mixtures their usual. But the Sidecar drinker? Where is this unicorn? And further, could there be a perfect Sidecar lurking somewhere in New York? Surely “Best Sidecar in Town” is a claim that’s still up for grabs.
Once upon a time, in the Jazz Age, everyone knew where to get the best Sidecar in the world. That was Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, a top contender for having invented the drink. However, the recipe published by owner Harry McElhone in his wonderful 1927 book Barflies and Cocktails—one part each of brandy, lemon juice and Cointreau—is not what anyone would called the best Sidecar today. Bartenders don’t agree on much, Sidecar-wise, but they do come together in agreeing that the 1:1:1 spec, when made with current ingredients, is undrinkable.
In an effort to see if the city held a version strong enough to bring me around to the drink’s charms, I went on the hunt. I started with the older hotel and restaurant bars—the standard bearers that, I reasoned, had never had time to forget the drink. The Ritz-Carlton on Central Park South is the home of Norman Bukofzer, who has been bartending as long as anyone in Manhattan. He wasn’t there the night I went, but the man on duty had some years on him, and I figured he adhered to Norman’s recipes.
Despite the bartender’s confidence in Sidecar correctitude (he insisted that there’s only one formula for the drink), he had to look the recipe up on his iPhone. What he gave me was two-and-a-half ounces Cognac, a three-quarter ounce of Cointreau, and a half ounce lemon juice. The bar usually did a sugar rim, he told me—a modern addition not called for in original recipes for the drink, and a touch that drives modern purists nuts. I asked him to take it back to a half rim. It was a big drink, as cocktails in old hotels usually are, and pretty good. But it was too boozy.
I moved on to iconic Bemelmans Bar, which is proudly stuck-in-the-mud just inside The Carlyle hotel. There the Sidecar is likewise nearly large enough to require two hands, but flabby and sickly sweet, owing to the triple sugar hit of Cointreau, simple syrup and a sugar rim. At the ‘21’ Club, meanwhile, I got a tart Sidecar, the sort that makes you wince with each sip. The young bartender who made it said he usually followed a 2:1:1 spec. But he found the Cognac he was currently using, Bardinet, so aggressive, that he veered closer to 1:1:1. Was that the house spec? There wasn’t really a house spec, he said. Every bartender made the drink differently.
How could one expect to get a good Sidecar in such a cradle of feckless anarchy?
Surely, a bar named Sidecar treated the cocktail with more seriousness. The decade-old Park Slope saloon in question puts the drink up at the top of its menu, all by itself. The staff’s attitude toward the cocktail, then, was oddly cursory. “It’s just the standard recipe that everyone uses,” said the disinterested bartender. The main difference in their house recipe was the use of Combier orange liqueur instead of the most common Cointreau. Lautrec was the Cognac. Same old sugar rim. It had all the character of a Screwdriver.
Was it the Combier that marked the downfall of Sidecar’s Sidecar? Was it the Lautrec? Maybe. Part of the challenge of perfecting the Sidecar is that it’s easy to royally screw up every one of the three components. Make a Manhattan with basic bourbon and run-of-the-mill sweet vermouth and it’s still a pretty damn good drink. Take a step down in either of the two alcoholic ingredients in the Sidecar and the cocktail tumbles into the basement. It’s a drink that knows a diamond from a rhinestone.
Absolutely by chance, I learned that Joaquín Simó, as good a bartender as New York has to offer, was a Sidecar fan. So I visited his bar, Pouring Ribbons, in the East Village, and had him make me one. Here, finally, was the care of execution I had been looking for. The man even had a philosophy.
“With the Sidecar, it’s not so much about flavor for me as it is about mouth-feel,” he said. The orange liqueurs he knew were not sweet enough to balance out the lemon juice. “These do not cancel each other out. They are not equivalent in the way, say, simple syrup and lemon juice cancel each other out.” So he adds a barspoon of rich 2:1 demerara syrup to the drink, which otherwise contains two ounces of Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac, a three-quarter ounce of Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao and a three-quarter ounce of lemon juice.
“I don’t want the drink to taste thin or watery half way through,” he continued, “so I bump up the sugar to give up a little more fat.”
It was the best Sidecar I had had since I’d started searching for one. It was a whole, not a poorly assembled brandy puzzle. It had a roundness that none of the other versions had possessed, and the sort of luxurious texture that Hess said he thought should mark the drink. All three elements were balanced. And the demerara did the trick the sugar rim was always meant to, but never did.
“The Sidecar is one of my favorite cocktails,” interjected Jason Cott, Simó’s partner at Pouring Ribbons. He had been listening to our conversation and was amused by my dissatisfaction with the drink. Could Jason be that elusive unicorn?
I asked him if he ordered Sidecars often. “All the time,” he said. And how often were they good? He smiled. “Never.”
Best Classic Sidecar Recipe - Recipes
The tides of war carried Americans to Europe and with them the cocktail style that America had made its own. We are told that the Sidecar was named for a certain US army captain whose preferred form of transport when out drinking in Paris was a sidecar. In London, your bar of choice would be the Buck’s Club with bartender Pat MacGarry. Paris had Harry’s Bar and the Ritz, Harry’s Bar remembered for its patron and famous cocktail authority Harry MacElhone, the Ritz for chief bartender Frank Meier who is celebrated as the inventor of the first luxury cocktail that featured the rarity of pre-phylloxera Cognac Fine Champagne, a Rémy Martin “Ritz Spécial”, vintage 1834.
One-third Cognac, one-third Cointreau, one-third lemon juice, ice, shake and serve. That’s what Harry MacElhone said it should be, back in 1922. It’s as simple as that. The citrusy character of the Sidecar displays the depth and versatility of Cognac as well as any cocktail ever created. Other recipes may vary the measures: three to two to one, so Cognac is a bigger part of it.
And in tribute to Frank Meier, let the Cognac please be Rémy Martin .
With a potato peeler, remove a tongue of peel from an orange. Twist it over the glass to squeeze the essential oils into the cocktail. Garnish with the zest placed on the edge of the glass.
The sidecar appears for the first time in Robert Vermeire's book Cocktails: How to Mix Them, published in 1922. In that recipe, unlike the contemporary one, the drink contained all the ingredients in equal parts. However, its provenance remains uncertain: some believe it was created by Harry MacElhone at Harry's Bar in Paris, in 1921, for an eccentric army captain who went to the place with a sidecar. But there are also those who think it was born in New Orleans. Still, others hypothesise that it was created in London.
Certainly, the sidecar cocktail dates back to the golden age of mixology, according to the version of Frank Meier, the famous barman trained at the Hoffman House hotel in New York, who landed in 1921 at the legendary Hotel Ritz in Paris, where he remained on a permanent basis until 1943.