June 4, 2019

The Sidecar, a Classic Combination of Lemon, Orange and Cognac

A classic cocktail that's super simple to make with a smooth citrus flavor and velvety Cognac base.

So what's the Sidecar taste like?

The delicate richness of Cognac is complimented by tart lemon juice and smoothed over with a vibrant candied sweetness from orange liqueur.

Imagine a lighter fruity whiskey sour balanced with bright lemon, that's what a Sidecar tastes like.

Measuring Pierre Ferrand Cognac
Pouring Cognac into the cocktail shaker

Choosing the right Cognac for the Sidecar

Cognac cocktails can be a bit tricky to buy a bottle for. Like most spirits there are different classifications of Cognac and it can all seem confusing if you aren't familiar.

To put it simply, Cognac is a barrel aged spirit distilled from grapes that is made in the Cognac region of France.

You will see different markings on the bottles at the liquor store but what I suggest you get is something that says either "VS" or "VSOP". One of those bottles will usually be in a reasonable price range and make a nice drink.

Some good bottles for cocktails include:

You could also make this a Hennessy cocktail if you'd like. That would be an expensive drink but I'm sure it would be damn tasty.

Fresh Squeezed lemon juice

What Triple Sec should you use?

Triple Sec is a type of orange liqueur with the  

What is Cointreau?

It's just the specific brand name for the most famous producer of triple sec, and since it has become so popular it is often called for by name in recipes.

A Sidecar only really has three ingredients so they are all going to come through in the final cocktail... choose good ones!

If you've picked yourself a nice bottle of Cognac you don't want to mix it with the cheapest triple sec on the market. Maybe you don't want to spend on a bottle of Cointreau I get it, but do your best not to use bottom shelf stuff.

Homemade Demerara Syrup

Changing the Sidecar recipe

The most common recipe I've seen for a Sidecar is 1.5 oz of Cognac with .75 oz of both lemon juice and orange liqueur, but I'm not a big fan of that recipe.

That version doesn't give you enough of the Cognac flavor which you actually want to taste if you have a nice bottle.

I prefer bumping the measure of Cognac up to 1.75 oz while keeping the lemon juice and Cointreau at .75 oz. This way you get a better balance between the citrus flavors from the lemon and liqueur while still getting plenty of uhhmph from the Cognac.

THe secret ingredient

A small splash of Demerara Simple Syrup.

Cointreau isn't quite as sweet as simple syrup so pairing it with an equal measure of lemon juice creates a drink that is just a tad on the tart side.

By adding up to 1/4 oz of Demerara syrup you balance the drink out while also adding some caramelized sugar flavors that compliment the Cognac nicely. 

Want to try something a little different?

Switch out the Cognac for whiskey and have a rye or bourbon Sidecar. You could also make a whiskey version if you have whiskey at home already and want to test the waters before buying a bottle of Cognac.

Double Straining the Sidecar Cocktail

Should you do the sugar rim?

The answer, as always, is do what you want!... but here's some guidance.

Sugar rims are just a fancy way to add sweetness to a cocktail but when you take a sip you get the sweetness from the sugar and not the actual cocktail. I don't really like that for a few reasons.

  1. It's extra work and is kind of messy
  2. You don't always get the perfect sugar rim to balance out every sip

I prefer taking the sugar off the rim and adding it in the form of Demerara Syrup, but if you like the way it looks I won't stop you.

Expressing Citrus on the Sidecar cocktail

Is the sidecar a girly drink?

I don't know why this question seems to come up so often on Google, but the answer is who really cares? Sure it's got a light and fruity flavor but that doesn't mean only women are aloud to drink it. Let's stop asking this question.

Garnishing with a lemon twist

Your last decision for the Sidecar is whether or not to garnish it.

It isn't traditional but I really enjoy the way a squeeze of lemon peel over the finished cocktail makes it pop. You could also use an orange peel depending on which citrus you'd like to highlight.

I hope you enjoy this one!

Sidecar Cocktail Recipe

The Sidecar is a classic Cognac cocktail invented in the early 1920's. It get's sweetness from orange liqueur that is balanced out by tart lemon juice, and complimented by a traditional sugar rim.


  • 1 3/4 oz Cognac
  • 3/4 oz Cointreau
  • 3/4 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1/8 oz 1:1 Demerara Simple Syrup - optional
  • Superfine Sugar


  • Prepare a glass by running a piece of lemon along the rim and then pressing it lightly into the sugar to coat.
  • Add the Cognac, Cointreau, Lemon juice, (and Simple Syrup if you choose to use it) to your shaker.
  • Add ice and shake for about 12 seconds.
  • Double strain into your prepared cocktail glass.


You will commonly see recipes call for 1 1/2 oz of Cognac but I don't think that's quite enough to go with the 3/4 oz measures of Cointreau and Lemon so I go with a little more.
The drink also benefits from just a splash of Dmerara simple syrup for some dark sweetness.
Total Time: 3 minutes
Course: Drinks
Servings: 1
Tag me at @mydrinkinghobby when you make this!

Share the Sidecar!

Sidecar Cocktail Recipe Pinterest

Something else to try:

The Sidecar is basically just a particular version of the classic Whiskey Sour with Cointreau as the sweetener ans Cognac as the base. You can also try mix-and-matching.

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