Sidecar Cocktail

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The Sidecar is a classic Prohibition Era cognac-based elixir made with Cointreau (orange liqueur) and fresh lemon juice. Similar to the Whiskey Sour but with a more sophisticated flavor profile thanks to the orange liqueur and unique depth of cognac. It’s one of my favorite easy-sipping drinks that I regularly work into my rotation of cocktails.

Sidecar cocktail garnished with a sugar rim and lemon peel.

The Sidecar is classically served straight up in a coupe glass with a sugar rim. Although it’s something I typically omit at home, it does add an interesting sugary texture to every sip.

Brief History

Like most classic cocktails that emerged during the Prohibition Era, its history is foggy and often debated. The earliest rendition of the cocktail was found in Harry McElhone’s book, Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails, in 1922. This rendition used brandy, which later evolved into cognac.

If you’re looking for other citrusy, yet spirit-forward cocktails, try the Whiskey Sour, New York Sour, Brown Derby cocktail, and Paper Plane cocktail!

Ingredients

Sidecar cocktail ingredients on a butcher block.

To craft the perfect Sidecar, you will need three key ingredients: Cognac, Cointreau, and fresh lemon juice.

  • Cognac: a fine brandy made from grapes rather than corn or grains, is typically enjoyed neat as an after-dinner drink. Its fruity undertones and smooth character make it a fantastic choice for whiskey lovers looking to explore new flavors.
  • Cointreau (orange liqueur): while you can substitute triple sec for Cointreau, Cointreau has a smoother finish and is a bit higher in alcohol, making it a better match for cognac.
  • Lemon juice: I always opt for freshly squeezed citrus, however, you can use bottled lemon juice in a pinch. My favorite option is ReaLemon.
  • Simple syrup (50-50) simple sugar is an optional ingredient. For a drier cocktail, omit the sugar altogether. When used sparingly, it helps to round out the edges and add a little extra sweetness (also see honey syrup)

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities below.

Cocktail Variations

The sidecar can be made in a few different ways depending on your taste. Here are a few tips based on the parts listed in the recipe below:

  • If made without simple sugar, the cocktail is much drier and spirit-forward.
  • Adding a bar spoon or teaspoon of simple sugar will add some welcomed sweetness and create a more balanced cocktail.
  • Reducing the cognac addition to 1 1/2 parts (while keeping lemon and Cointreau parts the same) will accomplish the same thing as adding simple sugar to the original base recipe.

How to Make a Sidecar Cocktail

Step 1.

For the sugar rim, coat the rim of the glass in orange/lemon juice. Place some sugar on a plate and twirl the glass in sugar to coat.

A hand wiping the rim of a coupe glass with a lemon wedge.
Dipping the rim of a coupe glass on a plate with table sugar.

Step 2.

Combine cognac, lemon juice, Cointreau, and optional simple syrup in a Boston shaker or mixing glass with plenty of ice. Stir vigorously for 15 seconds and double strain into a chilled coupe glass.

Pouring 2 ounces of cognac into a glass cocktail mixing glass.
Straining a Sidecar cocktail into a chilled coupe glass with a sugar rim.

Quick Tip

Chill your glasses in the freezer. A cold glass prevents warming and keeps your drink colder for longer.

Step 3.

To make a fancy lemon peel garnish, trim the edges of a thin lemon peel with a sharp knife into your desired shape. A peeler works best for creating a thin peel. Garnish the cocktail with a twist of orange or lemon.

Lemon peel garnish being trimmed with a knife on a cutting board.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Cognac? Is it whiskey?

Cognac is not whiskey. Cognac is a fine brandy made from grapes rather than corn or grains. It is distilled and aged for at least 2 years in French oak.

Can I substitute bourbon or brandy for cognac?

Yes. Replacing cognac with bourbon will render similar results to a whiskey sour. Brandy would be a better replacement.

What’s the best orange liqueur to use?

Cointreau is the best option for this cocktail. Triple sec also works but it’s a little sweeter.

What brand Cognac do you reccomend?

I like Pierre Ferrand and Rémy Martin.

Sidecar cocktail garnished with a sugar rim and lemon peel.

More Classic Cocktails

Enjoy this recipe? If you made this cocktail, please leave a ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ star rating in the recipe card below & a review in the comments!
5 from 1 vote

Sidecar Cocktail Recipe

Servings: 1 cocktail
Prep: 5 minutes
Total: 5 minutes
The Sidecar is one of my favorite classic cocktails, consisting of Cognac, orange liqueur, and fresh lemon juice. A citrusy refreshing classic.

Ingredients 

  • 2 ounces cognac
  • 3/4 ounce Cointreau
  • 3/4 ounce lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon simple sugar, omit for drier cocktail
  • Optional sugar for rim
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Instructions 

  • For the sugar rim, coat the rim of the glass in orange/lemon juice. Twirl the glass in sugar to coat.
  • Combine all ingredients in a Boston shaker or mixing glass with plenty of ice. Stir vigorously for 15 seconds and double strain into a chilled coupe glass.
  • To make a fancy lemon peel garnish, trim the edges of a thin lemon peel with a sharp knife into your desired shape. A peeler works best for creating a thin peel. Garnish the cocktail with a twist of orange or lemon.

Notes

This cocktail can be made with Brandy in place of Cognac as a substitution.
If made without simple sugar, the cocktail is much drier and spirit-forward.
Adding a bar spoon or teaspoon of simple sugar will add some welcomed sweetness and create a more balanced cocktail.
Reducing the cognac addition to 1 1/2 parts (while keeping lemon and Cointreau parts the same) will accomplish the same thing as adding simple sugar to the original base recipe.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 177kcalCarbohydrates: 0.5gProtein: 0.2gFat: 0.2gSaturated Fat: 0.2gSodium: 4mgFiber: 0.1gSugar: 0.5g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Cocktail
Cuisine: French
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About Shawn Williams

My name is Shawn, author behind Kitchen Swagger. I'm a food & drink enthusiast bringing you my own simple and delicious restaurant-inspired recipes.

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