The Sidecar, with a century of history behind it, is probably the most famous of all classic cognac drinks, and it remains a favorite today. The tart, dry cocktail features cognac, orange liqueur and fresh lemon juice, plus a sugared rim, and it’s a direct descendant of the Brandy Crusta, an old New Orleans cocktail that has enjoyed something of a comeback in recent years.
The Sidecar was likely invented around World War I. It graced the pages of two books in 1922: “Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails” by Harry MacElhone and “Cocktails and How to Mix Them” by Robert Vermeire. Both books listed the recipe with equal parts cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice, but subsequent versions altered the ratios, calling for two parts cognac, one part Cointreau and one part lemon. The latter formula is still common today and is used for this recipe.
The sugared rim is optional when making a Sidecar, but considering that this cocktail lands on the drier side of the sweetness spectrum, a few sugar granules with each sip provide a welcome treat.
How the Sidecar got its name is a source of debate: Both a French and English bar claim to have invented the cocktail for a customer who arrived at the location in the sidecar of a motorcycle. That seems plausible enough.
Bar veteran Dale DeGroff, however, says the drink’s name references the mixture that’s left in the shaker after straining and served in a shot glass on the side. This bonus is called, that’s right, a sidecar. You don’t have to serve a little shot alongside your Sidecar, but it’s a sure way to elicit smiles from whomever you’re serving—and it’s a great segue to tell the origin story of the cocktail.
- 1 1/2 ounces cognac
- 3/4 ounce orange liqueur (such as Cointreau)
- 3/4 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- Garnish: orange twist
- Garnish: sugar rim (optional)
- Coat the rim of a coupe glass with sugar, if desired, and set aside.
- Add the cognac, orange liqueur and lemon juice to a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
- Strain into the prepared glass.
- Garnish with an orange twist.