When asked to conjure up an image of a ‘man’s cocktail’, chances are you’re going to think of a Negroni or an Old Fashioned in a large rocks glass. But for guys who enjoy drinking Cognac, one of the best cocktails based on the much-loved spirit is the Sidecar, served in a cocktail glass.
The delectable drink has a rich, if not confusing history (its origins are long-debated) but suffice to say, the combination of Cognac, orange liqueur and lemon juice drunk from a glass with a sugared rim, makes it a sweet treat to enjoy any day of the week.
Never heard of the Sidecar? No problem. We’re here to reveal all there is to know, including the all-important recipe. Think you know the Sidecar? Read on to learn about some variations.
Origins Of The Sidecar Cocktail
As we alluded to earlier, the exact origins of the Sidecar cocktail aren’t set in stone. It’s believed to have been invented in the late 1910s, around the same time the First World War came to an end. As for where it was invented is subject of debate, with both London and Paris staking a claim.
The most common story, which takes place in the period of Prohibition in the US, suggests American bartender Harry MacElhone was sent to Europe to continue practising his trade. He gets himself a job at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, and invents the Sidecar, named so due to the fact the customer in question who ordered the drink was driven to the venue in a motorcycle sidecar.
If you’d rather believe the British version of events, the Sidecar was said to be invented by Pat MacGarry, a bartender at Buck’s Club in London. The recipe for this Sidecar also appeared in 1922 in the book Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails, published by the same Harry MacElhone who claimed to have invented it himself in Paris.
It seems Harry wants to take the glory for this one.
No matter which story you believe, both agreed the Sidecar was made from the same ingredients and the same proportions – a feature no longer used today.
Because of the period in time it is said to be invented, the Sidecar is classed as a Prohibition drink. But with an ingredients list that reads remarkably similar to the Brandy Crusta, a cocktail invented in New Orleans in the late 1800s, it may not be as Prohibition-y as first assumed.
The Brandy Crusta not only provides inspiration for the Sidecar as a whole but is also the drink that paves the way for the Sidecar’s sugared rim. Some Sidecar purists will insist you shouldn’t sugarcoat it, so it will come down to personal preference.
Sidecar Cocktail Ingredients
For a Sidecar to be a Sidecar, it needs to comprise three ingredients, with your preference of garnish:
- Cognac (Quality shines here, so use a good VSOP from Martell or Courvoisier – Maybe some Blue Swift)
- Orange Liqueur (No cheap Triple Sec here, use something like Cointreau instead)
- Lemon Juice (Make sure it’s freshly squeezed)
- Lemon or Orange Twist and/or Sugar Rim to garnish
- Cocktail glass
- Cocktail shaker
- Small sieve for double straining
Classic Sidecar Cocktail Measurements
While a truly classic recipe will call for a 1:1:1 ratio of measurements (known as “The French School”), many believe it to be too undrinkable. Modern-day recipes, therefore, call for a 2:1:1 ratio of the three ingredients (known as “The English School). You may want to play around with exact measurements to find the perfect taste for you. To start you off, go with the following ‘official’ recipe:
- 50ml/1.7oz Cognac
- 20ml/0.7oz Orange Liqueur
- 20ml/0.7oz Lemon Juice
How To Make The Sidecar Cocktail
To make a Sidecar cocktail, follow these simple steps:
- Cut into a slice of lemon and rub it around the rim of the cocktail glass, either all the way or just half.
- Pour ice into the glass to start chilling it. (Ideally, you’d want to sugarcoat the rim a good hour or so before you want to drink and leave it in the freezer to harden it, but if you don’t have the time, rimming it to order will still work)
- Pour the Cognac, orange liqueur and lemon juice into a cocktail shaker.
- Pour a good scoop of ice into the shaker and shake until chilled (around 10-12 seconds).
- Tip ice out of chilled cocktail glass. Double strain cocktail – pouring through a small sieve – into the glass.
- Garnish with an orange or a lemon twist.
Expert Twist On The Sidecar Cocktail
Of course, any gent with a fine cognac collection and a cocktail shaker can make a Sidecar, but what if you really want to wow your dinner party guests? It’s time to switch things up a bit. Hayley Dixon, Tequila Specialist at Proximo, a conglomerate that looks after some of the best-known tequila, whisky and rum brands, to get her unique spin on the classic Sidecar.
- 30ml 1800 Reposado Tequila
- 20ml Cointreau
- 10ml Cherry Liqueur
- 20ml Fresh Lemon Juice – and a little extra for your powdered sugar rim
- 5ml Simple Syrup
- 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
- Garnish Lemon Twist and powdered sugar glass
“The method for this one is very important.”
- First and most importantly, get your glass in the freezer. You will need a stemmed glass with a small drinking circumference. Think Champagne Flute, Nick & Nora or Small Wine Glass.
- Before cutting your lemon to juice, cut your lemon twist. It is best to use a small, sharp serrated knife, tomato knives are the best! You will need a very long twist so start by laying your lemon down on the chopping board sideways and begin cutting your twist from the middle of the lemon, away from you. The aim is to cut a twist that goes the entire way around the ‘body’ of the lemon.
- Grab your cocktail shaker, Jigger or other measuring device, Strainer, Citrus Juicer and a Small Plate
- Pour a nice amount of fine caster sugar onto your small plate so it is ready to create your sugar rim
- Measure all your ingredients out into the cocktail shaker
- Once your glass is nice and frosted remove it from the freezer and dip the rim of your glass in lemon juice, remove it from the lemon juice and dip it straight in to the fine caster sugar, creating a sugar rim the entire way around the glass
- Take your lemon twist and position it just inside the rim of the glass. The idea is for it to run the entire way around the rim and hold itself at the top of the glass. When you sip the cocktail you want to be getting the lemon twist, and the sugar at the same time. This may take a few attempts to perfect but it will be well worth it!
- Add ice to your shaker (the bigger your ice cubes, the better) and shake your cocktail as hard as you can for around 20 seconds. You want to get it as cold as possible and introduce a little dilution to the cocktail at the same time. Taste it before you strain it. If you need to shake it a little longer, do. Also keep in mind the sugar rim on your glass. The drink should taste a little too tart to balance that out so if you want to add a touch more lemon, now is the time.
- Strain it straight into your pre-prepared glass.
How To Drink A Sidecar Cocktail
A Sidecar is best enjoyed in swanky city cocktail bar. Put on your best mobster-looking pinstripe suit, complete with a pocket square, of course. Shine your Derby or Monk Strap shoes, pull up a stool at the bar and be sure to tip your bartender.
You could also, of course, don your best Gatsby fancy dress and throw the party of all parties.
The Sidecar is, inherently, a rather sweet cocktail, with the sourness of the lemon juice on hand to help balance it out. It’s therefore incredibly drinkable, so make sure you have a lift home sorted before your night begins. As we mentioned earlier, experimenting with good quality ingredients can reveal various resulting tastes, which we expect you to find all equally delicious.
There are few variations of the Sidecar you may want to try too. You can confidently substitute the Cognac for an Armagnac or another good-quality brandy. Alternatively, you can switch out the brandy base entirely for spiced rum, and renaming the cocktail the Cable Car in the process.
With it being Cognac-based, the Sidecar certainly lends itself to being ordered in the colder seasons of Autumn and Winter, purely because the spirit has warming qualities compared to the more refreshing nature of gin and vodka.
Pour one, sit back in your Eames chair, stick some jazz on the turntable and you’re good to go.
Cheers, you magnificent bastard.