The Sidecar: A Tart And Elegant Classic Cognac Cocktail

When it comes to classic cocktails, sometimes it's the simplest ones that get the most love. With over a century of history behind it, the Sidecar is one that has been finessed to perfection over time to be one of the most popular cognac drinks even today. With only a few simple ingredients it doesn’t take a lot for this tart, dry cocktail to come together into an elegant and delicious evening tipple. 

The origin of the sidecar is a little hazy with most experts placing its invention around World War I. It showed up in the fancy watering holes of London and Paris in the 1920s and by 1922 had made it into “Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails” by Harry MacElhone and “Cocktails and How to Mix Them” by Robert Vermeire. Both recipes detail a 1:1:1 ratio of cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice, but over time these measurements have been altered for a more cognac-heavy drink that is the norm today. 

It’s thought to have got its name from a customer who ordered the drink after arriving at the bar in the sidecar of a motorcycle. There are other opinions though with some bartenders believing the name is a reference to the mixture that’s left in the shaker after straining and is served alongside the drink in a shot glass. The bonus drink is like the sidecar to the motorcycle. 

Since the Sidecar has so few ingredients, the quality of every addition is of the utmost importance. Cheap bottom-of-the-barrel brandies or a half-price liqueur and the whole drink can be compromised. So break out your top-shelf booze if you want to do it right. The proportions can also be adjusted depending on your tastes. Some people like less tartness and reduce the lemon, while others choose to add a sugared rim for more sweetness, but the final call is up to you. 

So if you’re feeling fancy this evening, skip the beer or whiskey and shake up a Sidecar steeped in flavour and history for an elegant night in.


  • 40 ml cognac
  • 20 ml orange liqueur (such as Cointreau)
  • 20 ml lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • Garnish: orange twist
  • Garnish: sugar rim (optional)


  • Prepare a cocktail glass by making a slit in a lemon wedge and running the cut edge around the rim of the glass.
  • Dip the rim in a saucer of superfine sugar to create a thin crust. Chill the glass until needed.
  • Combine brandy, Cointreau, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. 
  • Shake well until chilled, about 10 seconds. 
  • Strain into the prepared glass; garnish with a twist of orange or lemon peel.