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The Vodka Sidecar is sweet tart and zingy, a spin on the classic cocktail using vodka instead of brandy. Serve with a sugar rim for the full effect!

Vodka sidecar
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Here’s a zingy spin on a classic cocktail that’s a solid drink in its own right: the vodka sidecar! The Sidecar is a classic sour cocktail made with brandy, and this spin swaps it out with…you guessed it, vodka! Sometimes trying to improve on a classic comes up a little short. But this vodka sidecar is absolutely worth making. It’s refreshingly tangy, with a little vodka zing on the back end. Alex and I tasted it against our Classic Sidecar, and we loved this variation. Here’s how to make it!

What’s in a vodka sidecar?

A Vodka Sidecar is a variation of the classic Sidecar cocktail made with vodka instead of brandy. If you’ve never had a Sidecar, well: it’s one of the great classic sour cocktails! It was invented circa 1920, and the name likely referred to an American army captain who drove around in a motorcycle sidecar. The Sidecar is on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails, meaning that there’s an “official” definition of the Sidecar. Swap out the brandy and you’ve got the vodka version! Here are the ingredients:

  • Vodka
  • Cointreau
  • Lemon juice

A variation for when you run out of vodka? The Bourbon Sidecar.

Vodka sidecar

Variations: vodka sour, vodka gimlet, and lemon drop martini!

The vodka sidecar is similar to several sour cocktails! The formula for a sour is very simple: liquor, citrus, and sweetener. A few sour cocktails with vodka that are cousin drinks of the vodka sidecar are:

  • Vodka Sour This drink is a classic 1920’s sour: this drink adds lime and bitters, and uses simple syrup instead of Cointreau as the sweetener. It’s also topped with an egg white foam, which is typical for sours (like the Boston Sour and Tequila Sour). It’s served in a lowball or Old Fashioned glass, instead of a cocktail glass.
  • Vodka Gimlet The main differences with the gimlet is it uses lime juice instead of lemon and simple syrup instead of Cointreau.
  • Lemon Drop Martini The lemon drop martini is very close to the vodka sidecar: they’re nearly identical! The main difference is the lemon drop uses citron vodka.
Vodka sidecar

How to make a vodka sidecar (basic steps)

The vodka sidecar is quick and simple! The method is similar to most sour cocktails, except it’s served with a sugar rim instead of an egg white foam. 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. Shake the ingredients 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 slice if you’d like! (Here’s how to make a twist.)

Use superfine sugar for a perfect sugar rim!

A sugar rim is often used when serving a sidecar, because it 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. Superfine sugar has such a fine texture that it sticks to the glass perfectly. You can use granulated sugar, but it falls off more easily and can result in a sweeter drink.
  • 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. You’ll notice in this drink we did a thick sugar rim for a fun look (versus a fine rim in our Classic Sidecar.)
  • Rim only the outside of the glass. The goal is to keep the rim on the glass and not fall into the drink!

Triple sec vs Cointreau

Triple Sec is often the orange liqueur used in a sidecar. But we recommend using Cointreau! Cointreau has a orange perfume flavor that’s well balanced between bitter and sweet, while Triple Sec can be more harsh.

What’s Cointreau used in? So many great cocktails! Grab a bottle and you can make a long list of Cointreau drinks: the Classic Margarita (and our best Margarita Recipes), CosmopolitanMimosa, and more.

Vodka sidecar

When to serve a vodka sidecar

The vodka sidecar is a sophisticated and refreshing cocktail that works for lots of occasions. It’s perfect for sipping as a:

  • Summer drink
  • Happy hour drink
  • Dinner party drink
  • Late night drinks drink
  • Guys or girls night drink
  • Cocktail hour drink
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Vodka sidecar

Vodka Sidecar

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


The Vodka Sidecar is sweet tart and zingy, a spin on the classic cocktail using vodka instead of brandy. Serve with a sugar rim for the full effect!


  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) vodka
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) Cointreau or Triple Sec
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) lemon juice
  • For the garnish: Lemon twist or slice
  • 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 the vodka, Cointreau, and lemon juice 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 slice.
  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktails
  • Diet: Vegan

More sour cocktails

Sour cocktails are a family of cocktails with base liquor, sour, and sweet elements. There are all sorts of variations on a good “sour”. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Classic Mojito Here’s a classic mojito recipe, perfectly balanced with lime, rum and fresh mint!
  • Classic Daiquiri The Classic Daiquiri is made with rum, lime juice, and sweetener.
  • Tom Collins Cocktail A Tom Collins is also known as a gin sour: is light and bubbly with soda water.
  • Southside Cocktail An easy and refreshing gin drink made with mint, lemon and lime: think of it like a gin mojito!
  • Gin Fizz Cocktail The classic Gin Fizz is sweet, tangy, and has a frothy egg white foam topping.

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 for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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