Cocktail Basics: The Sidecar


The venerable Sidecar. I get an order for one – I dunno – maybe 3 or 4 times a year. Often, it’s at my behest. Most young’uns don’t know a damned thing about it’s existence, let alone it’s wonderful balance of well-chilled sweet/dry/citrus magic stuff in a purty Martini cocktail glass. That’s cuz they’re far too easily (and wrongly) satiated with simpleton and tasteless shizz like Vodka & Soda - sheesh. Outside Speakeasy type throwbacks, nary will most folks ever venture out of their comfort zone of booze-hounding to get all experimental with classic and relatively “obscure” brown-liquor drinks like ye Sidecar. That’s a damned shame. I’ve never had a single guest not go absolutely gaga over this cocktail – particularly straight Cognac lovers.

I won’t bore you with the sordid history… employ you google-fu for that one.


  • 1oz quality Cognac (for God’s sake – stay away from E&J Brandy)
  • 1oz Cointreau (you can substitute Triple Sec if you’re a cheap-ass)
  • 1oz Fresh Lemon Juice

So, here’s where most arguments ensue amongst the mixology set: proportions. The original recipe (and best-balanced IMNSHO) calls for equal parts of the above ingredients. At issue – with most bartenders I’ve run across – is that they “claim” too much Cointreau contributes to a cocktail too sweet. Well, I call bullshit. Cointreau isn’t terribly sweet. As a matter of fact, along with being essentially a premium version of Triple Sec, it’s also a dryer version of Curaçao. What I find they’re really trying to say is that they are insatiable alcoholics who find that “too much” of the other two ingredients dilute the Cognac. The resultant balance (or lack thereof) doesn’t “hit hard.” As a result, the Internet is awash with a ton of recipes calling for far more Cognac than other ingredients. For me, that’s shortsighted. I’m no

Look: Gin, Tequila and Cognac have extremely pronounced flavors. For that reason, it’s a wonderful idea not to overpour these particular spirits lest – again – balance bet thrown way out of whack, such as in a plebian Long Island Iced Tea, a White Lady, or a good old-school Margarita. I digress, but most players that order shit like “Henny” and Coke, do so because their tastebuds are experiencing a grand illusion; their Highball is gonna get them twisted, in far shorter order, than a spirit less flavorful. Quite the hoodwinking I say. Alcohol content is alcohol content – in any guise.

Just last night, I had a PYT order a Vodka & Soda (shocker). Like any decent bartender worth his/her salt, I upsell her to Grey Goose. She extols the virtues of the French stuff, noting that when she drinks anything else, she gets sick. I froze and did my best to conceal my Oh-God 360 while pouring. I quickly and politely pointed out to her that she’s only partially correct. Although the higher-end “Vockas” tend to be more congener-free, it’s the alcohol itself (in volume) that’s primarily making you feel crappy via it’s diuretic properties. She didn’t buy it – whatevs…


Ideally, you’ll want to use a Cocktail Glass chiller. If not, first chill your glass with ice. Next, in a Boston Shaker, combine your ingredients then fill with ice. Cap and tap your glass shaker with a 28oz stainless steel mixer and shake rhythmically with a good amount of force about 15 times or so. Let settle while your sugar-rim your cocktail glass.

Eww! Sugar? Yes – sugar. It’s somehow become a dirt word in this waif-obsessed town. Again, whatevs. The sugar rim adds – again – a wonderful balance with each little sip of this cocktail – not unlike the effect a coarsely salted rim has on a primo, frothy Margarita. Don’t skip it.

Strain into your sugar-rimmed Cocktail Glass.


Lemon wheel (as pictured in my version above) or Lemon Twist – plain and simple. It’s just for visual appeal anyway. A handful of bartenders – especially those that insist on butchering this drink with a ridiculously high proportion of Cognac – will insist on a twist and resultant Lemon Oil rub. Personally, I think that’s best saved for other cocktails like a classic Gin Martini. There’s already a lot going on with The Sidecar and the lemon oil will typically be lost in the shuffle of other powerful flavors. Besides, you can’t have a sugar rim with a Lemon Oil rub. Occasionally, some bartenders will opt for an Orange Twist. Orange Oil has a wonderfully mild – almost imperceptible - effect. Just sayin… I don’t mind it in my Sidecar.

Drink on.

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2 thoughts on “Cocktail Basics: The Sidecar

  1. Glad to see a post about my go-to drink! I’m a lady that loves her sidecars but I have so much trouble ordering them! I’m not picky on the cognac to triple sec proportions, but I am picky on the ingredients. Most often, a bartender will use a cheap brandy so I’ll often instruct the waiter to let them know I want it made with cognac. If they need more specifics, I request Grand Marnier and Cointreau as the triple sec. I actually had a disgruntled bartender inform me that a “true” sidecar is made with brandy and NOT cognac. I’m not gonna lie, it kinda pissed me off and I have yet to return to that bar. Even more frequently, they don’t sugar rim the glass. I feel like this drink is the basis for a ton of cocktails so I’m really surprised when the bartender has never heard of it. I cut them some slack when they put some effort into making it how I want it :-D. Guess it’s my test of a quality bartender!

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