how to make a sidecar

How to Make a Sidecar | A Timeless Classic for Home Entertaining

The Sidecar Cocktail: A Timeless Classic for Home Entertaining

how to make a sidecar

Everything You Need to Know About How to Make a Sidecar

Imagine a Parisian cafe in the early 1920s, the air thick with cigarette smoke and lively conversation. A woman with a mysterious air slides onto a stool and orders a drink – a Sidecar. The bartender, with a practiced flourish, shakes up a concoction of amber liquid, its surface adorned with a citrus twist. This is the Sidecar, a cocktail that has transcended time and location, becoming a symbol of sophistication and remarkable for its ease of preparation. Intrigued by its history and eager to impress your guests with your home bartending skills? This guide will equip you with everything you need to know to create the perfect Sidecar, right in your living room.

The Murky History of the Sidecar

The Sidecar's origins, like the woman who first ordered it, remain shrouded in a touch of mystery. Tales credit its creation to various individuals and locations during World War I. One story places its birth at a Parisian bistro frequented by American soldiers, possibly even Harry's New York Bar, a legendary watering hole still standing today. Another account attributes it to Frank Meier, a bartender at the Ritz Hotel in Paris. Regardless of its precise birthplace, the Sidecar was first documented in Harry MacElhone's 1922 cocktail recipe book, "Harry's ABC of Mixing Cocktails". This initial recipe called for equal parts Cognac, Cointreau, and lemon juice, though a 2:1:1 ratio of Cognac, Cointreau, and lemon juice became more popular over time, and remains the standard recipe today.

Why's the Drink Called a Sidecar?

The drink's name is as intriguing as its origins. One theory suggests it was named after a sidecar-riding motorcycle enthusiast who frequented a bar and favored the drink. Another, perhaps more whimsical, story claims the name refers to the leftover cocktail mixture remaining in the shaker, traditionally served "on the side" in a small shot glass.

Sidecar Recipe

how to make a sidecar

The beauty of the Sidecar lies in its simplicity. With just a few readily available ingredients and a good shake, you can create a cocktail worthy of any upscale bar.


  • 2 ounces Cognac or Armagnac (high-quality brandy is key)
  • 1 ounce orange liqueur (Cointreau is preferred, but other triple secs can be used)
  • ¾ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice (freshness is essential for optimal flavor)
  • Lemon or orange twist for garnish (optional: superfine sugar for the rim)

Steps to Make It:

  1. (Optional): For an extra touch of elegance and a delightful textural contrast, dip the rim of your chilled coupe glass in sugar.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
  3. Shake vigorously for about 30 seconds, until the shaker feels cold to the touch. This ensures your drink is perfectly chilled.
  4. Strain the mixture into your prepared glass.
  5. Add a finishing touch with a lemon or orange twist.

The Best Brandy and Other Key Ingredients for a Great Sidecar

how to make a sidecar

While the recipe is straightforward, using high-quality ingredients elevates your Sidecar to new heights.

  • Brandy: The heart of the Sidecar, the brandy you choose significantly impacts the final flavor profile. Opt for a good quality VS or VSOP Cognac or Armagnac. These brandies offer a complex range of flavors that complement the citrus and sweetness of the other ingredients.
  • Orange Liqueur: Cointreau, a premium orange liqueur, is the traditional choice, offering a balanced sweet and bitter orange flavor. Triple sec, a more generic term for orange liqueurs, can also be used, but some brands may be overly sweet or lack the complexity of Cointreau.

How (and When) to Serve a Sidecar

The Sidecar is a versatile drink, perfect for a pre-dinner aperitif or a sophisticated after-dinner drink. Serve it chilled in a coupe glass for a classic presentation.

How to Make a Sugar Rim:

For an extra touch of elegance, consider adding a sugar rim to your Sidecar.

  1. Wet the rim of your chilled coupe glass with a lemon wedge.
  2. Dip the rim into a shallow plate filled with sugar.

Substitutes for the Cognac in a Sidecar

how to make a sidecar

While Cognac is the traditional base spirit for a Sidecar, experimentation is encouraged! Here are some alternatives:

  • Armagnac: This French brandy, produced in the Armagnac region southwest of Bordeaux, offers a similar flavor profile to Cognac, but with a slightly fruitier and more floral character.
  • Bourbon: For a twist on the classic, try using a well-aged bourbon. This American whiskey imparts a distinct vanilla and oaky flavor to the drink.
  • Premium Cherry Brandy: This option offers a unique twist, with notes of cherry and almond complementing the citrus and sweetness of the other ingredients. Choose a high-quality cherry brandy to avoid an overly sweet or artificial taste.

Triple Sec vs Cointreau

While both are orange liqueurs, Cointreau stands out for its quality and balanced flavor profile. Triple sec is a broader category that can encompass various brands with a wider range of sweetness levels and complexities. For a truly classic Sidecar, Cointreau remains the preferred choice.

Tips for a Great Sidecar:

  • Freshness Matters: Always use freshly squeezed lemon juice for the best flavor. Bottled lemon juice can have a dull and artificial taste.
  • Balance is Key: The magic of the Sidecar lies in the interplay of sweet, tart, and warm flavors. Adjust the amount of orange liqueur to your taste preference for a perfect balance.
  • Chill Factor: A cold drink is essential for a refreshing Sidecar experience. Ensure your glass is chilled and shake the drink well with ice.
  • Shaking Technique: A vigorous shake for 30 seconds ensures the drink is well-chilled and properly diluted, creating a smooth and silky texture.

Recipe Variations:

how to make a sidecar

The Sidecar's simplicity invites exploration. Here are a few variations to consider:

  • The White Sidecar: Substitute the Cognac with white rum for a lighter and more tropical twist.
  • The French Connection: This variation combines Cognac with Cognac and a touch of blue curaçao, creating a layered blue and amber drink.
  • The Tommy's Margarita: A close relative of the Sidecar, this tequila-based cocktail uses lime juice instead of lemon and agave nectar for a touch of sweetness.

Cocktails Related to the Sidecar

The Sidecar's influence extends to a vast array of cocktails. Here are a few examples:

  • The Boston Sidecar: This variation uses white rum instead of Cognac, creating a lighter and more tropical drink.
  • The Chelsea Sidecar: This twist features gin as the base spirit, offering a botanical and juniper-forward flavor profile.
  • Between the Sheets: A delightful cocktail that incorporates Cognac, orange liqueur, lemon juice, and a splash of white rum, creating a complex and layered drink.

Nutritional Info (per serving)

  • Calories: 203 (depending on the sugar content of your orange liqueur)
  • Carbohydrates: 10g (primarily from the orange liqueur)

While the Sidecar is a delightful indulgence, remember to enjoy it responsibly due to its alcohol content (approximately 26% ABV).


The Sidecar is more than just a cocktail; it's a testament to the enduring power of classic recipes. With its simple ingredients, perfect balance of flavors, and rich history, the Sidecar is a delightful addition to any home bar repertoire. Imagine the look of surprise and delight on your guests' faces when you unveil a perfectly crafted Sidecar – a sophisticated drink born in a bygone era, enjoyed in the comfort of your own home.

And, if you're looking to elevate your home bartending skills and explore a wider range of classic cocktails, look no further than Barprints' extensive library of cocktail recipes and techniques. Barprints offers a variety of resources, including its highly-rated online bartending course, "Mixology Mastery," designed to transform you from a home mixologist to a cocktail connoisseur. With Barprints, you can unlock the secrets of crafting delicious and impressive drinks for any occasion.

how to make a sidecar

So, the next time you're looking to impress your family and friends, skip the crowded bar scene and create an unforgettable experience with a homemade Sidecar. Who knows? Perhaps you'll even develop your own signature Sidecar variation, adding your own chapter to this timeless cocktail's intriguing story. What unique twist will you add to this delightful classic?

how to make a sidecar