Here’s how to make one of the best classic cocktails of all time: the Sidecar cocktail! This sour is the perfect balance of Cognac, Cointreau and lemon.

Sidecar cocktail

Here’s one of the very best sour cocktails, and possibly one of the best classic cocktails of all time. The Sidecar cocktail! What’s so great about the Sidecar? Indeed, we asked ourselves the same question. Then we tasted it. This drink is perfectly balanced between sweet and tart, with just the right edge from the boozy Cognac. It’s a complex, layered drink: warm, crisp, dry, rich, and full at the same time. Truly a stunner, this is now one of our top sour cocktails to make at home (aside from the whiskey sour and New York sour, of course).

Don’t have Cognac? Try the Vodka Sidecar or Bourbon Sidecar instead!

What’s in a Sidecar cocktail?

The most common story about the invention of the Sidecar cocktail is that it was created around 1918, named after an American army captain stationed in Paris in World War I. Apparently he rode around in a motorcycle sidecar, hence the name. The iconic Harry’s New York Bar in Paris likes to take credit for the drink; it also claims classics like the Between the Sheets and the White Lady. The Sidecar is on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails. This means that there’s an “official” definition of the ingredients in a Sidecar:

  • Cognac
  • Orange liqueur (Cointreau or triple sec)
  • Lemon juice
Sidecar cocktail

How to make a Sidecar cocktail (3 steps!)

A Sidecar is very easy to make! The steps are the same as a Classic Margarita, except you’ll use sugar for the rim instead of salt. They’re actually cousin drinks, which might be why we love the Sidecar so much! Here are the basic steps (or go to the recipe)

  1. Rim the glass with sugar. A sugar rim is optional, but a Sidecar is often served with it. This brings out the sweet tart flavor even more.
  2. Shake in a cocktail shaker. Take that brandy, Cointreau and lemon juice and shake it together in a cocktail shaker with a handful of ice cubes.
  3. Strain into a glass and add ice. Strain the drink into a cocktail glass. Serve with a lemon twist or orange twist. (Here’s how to make a twist.) Some people like to squeeze the orange twist into the drink so the oils add a perfume.
Cocktail shaker
Here’s the cocktail shaker we recommend

Get that perfect sugar rim!

The sugar rim is not part of the “official” definition of a Sidecar cocktail, but it’s often traditionally served with it. A sugar rim helps to offset the tart in sour cocktails (like the Lemon Drop Martini). Here’s what to know about making a sugar rim:

  • Superfine sugar makes the best sugar rim. Why? It’s so finely ground that it sticks to the glass perfectly. You can use granulated sugar, but it falls off more easily. It can result in a sweeter drink because more falls off.
  • Use a lemon wedge to run around the outside of the rim first. This wets the glass quickly and easily without having to wet your finger.
  • Try to rim only the outside of the glass. Again, the goal is to keep the rim on the glass and not fall into the drink.

All about Cognac

Cognac is a type of French brandy, a liquor made from distilling wine. There are several grades of Cognac that designate how long it’s been aged:

  • VS or 3 stars (2 years)
  • VSOP (4 years)
  • Napoléon (6 years)
  • XO (10 years)

Watch out, bottles of XO can be upwards of $200! No need to go that high-end, of course. You can use a mid-priced VS or VSOP Cognac for this Sidecar cocktail. Want more Cognac cocktails or brandy drinks? Try the Between the Sheets, Stinger, French Connection, or Sazerac.


Triple sec or Cointreau?

Triple Sec is often used in a Sidecar, but our favorite orange liqueur to use is Cointreau. Cointreau has a orange perfume flavor that’s well balanced between bitter and sweet, while Triple Sec can have a more harsh flavor. If you’re not sure whether you want to buy a bottle, there’s a long list of Cointreau drinks that use it: all of our best Margarita Recipes, Cosmopolitan, Mimosa, and more.

Fun fact: “triple sec” means triple distilled: it’s actually not a brand name! Cointreau is a brand made by Remy Martin, but it’s technically also a triple sec because it’s triple distilled. (How’s that for confusing!)

Sidecar cocktail

The Sidecar is a classic sour cocktail: citrus juice, liquor and sweetener (which in this case is the Cointreau orange liqueur). You can also make it as a Vodka Sidecar, Bourbon Sidecar or Between the Sheets (bourbon and rum). And it has even more cousin drinks! Here are some more sour cocktails that are related to the Sidecar:

  • Classic Daiquiri The Classic daiquiri is essentially a Sidecar with rum instead of brandy, and lemon instead of lime.
  • Classic Margarita The Margarita is a Sidecar with tequila and lime instead of brandy and lemon.
  • Cosmopolitan Cocktail The Cosmo features vodka instead of brandy and cranberry juice.
  • White Lady The White Lady is a Sidecar with gin instead of brandy.

When to serve a Sidecar cocktail

The Sidecar cocktail is a classy classic sour that’s delicious as it is versatile. It’s perfect for sipping as a:

  • Happy hour drink
  • Dinner party drink
  • Summer drink
  • Late night drinks drink
  • Guys or girls night drink
  • Cocktail hour drink
  • Birthday celebration drink (Happy Birthday, Hazel!)
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Sidecar cocktail

Classic Sidecar Cocktail

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x


Here’s how to make one of the best classic cocktails of all time: the Sidecar cocktail! This sour is the perfect balance of Cognac, Cointreau and lemon.


  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) Cognac (VS or VSOP)
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) Cointreau
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) lemon juice
  • For the garnish: lemon twist or orange twist
  • Superfine sugar* rim, optional


  1. Cut a notch in a lemon wedge, then run the lemon around the rim of a cocktail glass. Dip the edge of the rim into a plate of superfine sugar.
  2. Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with a handful of ice and shake until cold.
  3. Strain the drink into the prepared glass. Garnish with a lemon twist or orange twist.


*Superfine sugar works well for a sugar rim since it sticks to the glass better than granulated sugar. You can use granulated sugar if it’s all you have; note it can tend to fall off into the drink, making it taste a shade sweeter.

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktails
  • Diet: Vegan

Keywords: Sidecar Cocktail

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About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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  1. Hey guys,
    We stumbled upon your Classic Sidecar Cocktail recipe this evening whilst looking for cocktails using Hennessy and we’re so pleased that we did.
    Thank you so much.
    Mark & Kellie from a land down under.