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Follow this Sidecar drink recipe to make the all-time classic cocktail! Mix Cognac, Cointreau and lemon for the perfect sweet sour blend of ingredients.

Sidecar cocktail
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Here’s one of the best classic cocktails of all time: the Sidecar! This drink is perfectly balanced between sweet and tart, with a boozy edge from the Cognac and a citrus essence from orange liqueur. It’s a complex and layered drink: warm, crisp, dry, rich, and full at the same time. Truly a stunner, this is one of our top sour cocktails to make at home! Here are the ingredients you’ll need.

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

Ingredients in this Sidecar recipe

Why is it called a Sidecar? The most common origin story of the Sidecar cocktail is that it was created in 1918, named after an American army captain stationed in Paris in World War I who rode around in a motorcycle sidecar. The iconic Harry’s New York Bar in Paris takes credit for the invention of 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, which means that there’s an “official” definition of the ingredients in this drink. The sidecar ingredients are:

  • 2 oz Cognac (such as Hennessy, Rémy Martin or another brand)
  • 1 oz orange liqueur (Cointreau, triple sec or Grand Marnier)
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • Superfine or granulated sugar, for the rim (optional)
Sidecar cocktail

How to make a Sidecar drink

A Sidecar is very easy to make. In fact, the steps are the same as a margarita, except you’ll use sugar for the rim instead of salt. The two are actually related drinks, which might be why the Sidecar tastes both sophisticated and familiar. Here are the basic steps (or go to the recipe)

  1. Rim the glass with sugar. A sugar rim is optional, but it’s the classic presentation for a Sidecar cocktail and it accentuates the sweet tart flavor.
  2. Shake in a cocktail shaker. Take the Cognac, 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, or even easier: a lemon slice. Some people like to squeeze the orange twist into the drink so the oils add a perfume.
Cognac

More about Cognac

Cognac is a type of French brandy, a liquor made from distilling wine. Popular brands of Cognac include Hennessy, Martell, Rémy Martin, and Courvoisier. 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), and XO (10 years).

Bottles of XO can be upwards of $200, but there’s no need to go that high-end. You can use a mid-priced VS or VSOP Cognac for this Sidecar cocktail. You can use up a bottle with more Cognac cocktails or brandy drinks, like the classics Between the Sheets, Stinger, French Connection, or Sazerac.

Cointreau

Triple sec vs Cointreau

For the orange liqueur in a Sidecar drink, you can use either Triple Sec or Cointreau. Cointreau is slightly more expensive, but it has a orange perfume flavor that’s well balanced between bitter and sweet. Triple Sec can have a more harsh flavor. There’s a long list of Cointreau drinks where you can use it, including the Margarita, Cosmo, Mai Tai, and more.

“Triple sec” means triple distilled, so it’s actually an umbrella term for a type of orange liqueur, 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!)

How to make a sugar rim

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

  • Superfine sugar makes the best sugar rim. It’s so finely ground that it sticks to the glass perfectly. While you can use granulated sugar, it falls off more easily and can result in a sweeter drink.
  • Use a lemon wedge to run around the outside of the rim. This wets the glass quickly and easily without having to wet your finger.
  • Dip the outside edge of the glass in a plate of sugar. The goal is to keep the sugar on the outside rim on the glass so it doesn’t fall into the drink.
Sidecar cocktail

Substitutes for the Cognac in a Sidecar

What’s a good substitute for the Cognac in a Sidecar? You can use any type of brandy to make a Sidecar, like Armagnac, a good California brandy, or even Pisco (a type of Brandy made in Chile and Peru).

You can make various versions of the Sidecar using different alcohol. Use vodka to make it a Vodka Sidecar or bourbon to make it a Bourbon Sidecar.

The Sidecar is a classic sour cocktail that features citrus juice, liquor and sweetener (in this case, the sweetener is the Cointreau orange liqueur). There are lots of variations on the Sidecar drink formula. Here are some more sour cocktails that are related to the Sidecar:

  • The Between the Sheets cocktail uses the same Sidecar ingredients, along with white rum.
  • A Daiquiri is a Sidecar with rum instead of brandy, and lemon instead of lime.
  • A Margarita is a Sidecar with tequila and lime instead of brandy and lemon.
  • A Whiskey Sour is a Sidecar with whiskey instead of Cognac and simple syrup in place of orange liqueur.
  • The Cosmopolitan uses vodka instead of brandy and adds cranberry juice.
  • A White Lady is a Sidecar with gin instead of Cognac.
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Sidecar cocktail

Sidecar Recipe


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5 from 1 review

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

Description

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.


Ingredients

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

Instructions

  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.

Notes

*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.

To convert to tablespoons, 1 ounce = 2 tablespoons

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

More great cocktail recipes

Here are some of our favorite great cocktail recipes and cocktail collections:

  • New York Sour One of the the best cocktails out there! Make a classic whiskey sour and float a layer of red wine on top.
  • Best Gin and Tonic The most refreshing 2-ingredient cocktail! A few secrets take this crisp, botanical drink over the top.
  • Tom Collins Cocktail This classic sweet sour cocktail is light and bubbly!
  • Prosecco Mimosa This one’s made with Italian Prosecco, orange juice, and a dash of Cointreau for the perfect bubbly tart flavor.

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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5 Comments

  1. Claudia V. says:

    Never had a sidecar before but I had some brandy that needed using, and now it’s become one of my favorites thanks to this recipe. So simple and no added sugar is nice. I use Grand Marnier because I prefer it over to Cointreau. Love it! Thanks for the great recipe.

  2. Cleo says:

    Substituted lemon juice with limoncello, end result unpleasant. Tastes like a lemon cough drop without the medicinal benefit.

  3. Barbie Estes says:

    Delicious. Thank you!

  4. Mark & Kellie Monte says:

    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.






    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Glad to hear it! :)