Sidecar Cocktail


Sidecar Cocktail
1/4 Lemon Juice. (1/2 oz Lemon Juice)
1/4 Cointreau. (1/2 oz Cointreau)
1/2 Brandy. (1 oz Germain-Robin Fine Alambic Brandy)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

In his book, “Cocktails: How to Mix Them,” Robert Vermeire notes, “This cocktail is very popular in France. It was first introduced in London by MacGarry, the celebrated bar-tender of Buck’s Club.”

There are numerous stories about who created the Sidecar, as far as I know none have been truly substantiated. It is also a cocktail which has evolved significantly over the years.

The earliest versions of the recipe are equal parts cocktails, that is 1/3 Cognac, 1/3 Lemon, 1/3 Cointreau. In the Savoy Cocktail Book, we see that evolve to two parts Cognac to 1 part each of Lemon and Cointreau. In the 1940s, David Embury would further dry it out, proposing a ratio of 8 parts booze, 2 parts lemon, and 1 part Cointreau. Modern drink mixers often go with something like 4 parts booze, 1 part Lemon, and 1 part Cointreau.

Personally, I like the Savoy version, it’s nicely light and tart. Though I tend to like just a touch more Cointreau than lemon.

The Sidecar is a great gateway cocktail and a good test of a bar or bartender. Do they use fresh juice or sour mix? Is the cocktail balanced? Too sweet? Too sour?

Hint: If you’re using Sour Mix, for some inexplicable reason, reduce or eliminate the Cointreau.

The Sidecar Cocktail often sports a sugar rim. I’m kind of unclear why or whom started that treatment, as none of the earliest sources for the recipe are frosted with sugar. I don’t really see the need, as the cocktail should be well balanced without it. Maybe, if you are making a particularly dry and Embury-esque version of the drink, I could see it. Otherwise, skip the sticky sugar rim.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

5 thoughts on “Sidecar Cocktail

  1. The ratio I usually use for the sidecar is 4 parts cognac, 2 part Cointreau, & 1 part lemon juice.

    I agree w/ yr statement about the sidecar being a great way to test a bar. We live in a college town in the middle of nowhere, & one night my wife ordered a sidecar at one of the “nice” restaurants in town. The confused waiter came back & asked “what kind do you want?” She responded w/ something like “the usual kind.” After watching the waiter and the bartender argue about something for about five minutes, he returned w/ her drink: a shot glass full of room temperature gin.

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  3. My general sour drink is Embury-lite: 4 parts booze, 2 parts sour, 1 part sweet. With that ratio, I like the sugar rim on the sidecar.

    Side note: I bought my copy of Embury’s “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks” from Friends of the Burlingame Library before I moved away from San Francisco, so sometime around 1988. I’m pretty sure I paid less than a dollar. It’s not an exaggeration to say that book changed my life. I went from ordering Kamikazes and Long Island Iced Teas to making sidecars and greenbacks.

  4. Andrew’s experience is all too common in the college town I live in too. We have plenty of “cocktail bars” in town with nice furnishings, ambiance and a decently stocked backbar. None know how to make a sidecar though. If you are lucky, they might of heard of it, but will still need to consult a book. I usually just give up and get a manhattan (which they shake). Sigh.

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