Classic Drinks: The Sidecar Cocktail Recipe

This sidecar cocktail recipe is a classic for a reason. The cognac cocktail is flavored with lemon and orange for a refreshing citrus drink. It’s easy to make and delicious to drink!

Close up of an orange cocktail

Whenever we host at our place, I love to include a cocktail for the evening. Wine is great, but there is something about a craft cocktail that makes it feel like an extra special event. For Christmas Eve with my family, I love sugared cranberry margaritas and this blackberry thyme sparkler has been made for the last three New Year’s Eves in a row! For an intimate dinner party, though, I love a classic cocktail. Enter this Sidecar Cocktail Recipe.

How do you make a Sidecar Drink? Here’s the Step by Step:

  1. Begin by peeling a large section of each of the lemon rinds and placing it aside for garnish.
  2. Next, cut each of the lemons into halves.
  3. Place sugar on a small plate. Moisten the rim of a coupe glass with lemon juice by placing them upside down on the cutting board that you used to halve the lemons. Next dip each glass into the sugar; shake off the excess and set aside.
  4. Combine cognac, orange liqueur, and 2 ounces of fresh squeezed lemon juice in a cocktail shaker. Fill shaker with ice, cover, and shake vigorously until outside of shaker is very cold, about 20 seconds.
  5. Strain cocktail into glass and enjoy immediately.

A sidecar cocktail in a coupe glass

Two sidecar cocktails ready to serve

The Origin of the Sidecar Cocktail

The origins for this classic cocktail date back to the 1920s, although different publications tout different ratios of the ingredients. The Sidecar Cocktail is thought to have been the invention of an army captain in Paris during World War 1 and named after the motorcycle sidecar that he used.

Two cocktails on a white surface

What is in a Sidecar? Sidecar Ingredients:

This cocktail has exactly three ingredients if you don’t count the sugar on the rim and, you know what? It doesn’t need any more.

  • Lemon juice
  • Cognac
  • Orange liqueur

It’s perfectly simple and simply perfect.

How Do You Serve A Sidecar?

The sidecar should be served straight up and without ice – it is shaken with ice so it is cold before it is poured into the glass. I like serving them in coupe glasses and the sugar rim cuts through the tart citrus flavor. Finish with a little lemon peel for garnish.

A sidecar cocktail garnished with a sugar rim

Top Tips For Making A Sidecar Cocktail

  • Use fresh lemon juice, not the bottled store bought varieties.
  • Shake the shaker until it is cold to the touch.
  • Garnish with a lemon twist
  • Serve immediately.

Substitutes for Cognac

Brandy refers to any spirit that is distilled from fruit-based wine, though in general it refers to grape wines. Cognac is a specific type of brandy produced from distilled white wine. It is made from grapes that are produced in or around the Cognac region of France. In order to be labeled cognac, it must be aged for at least two years in oak casks. While all cognacs are brandies, not all brandies are cognacs because of these strict requirements. If you’re looking to substitute cognac in this cocktail for something less expensive or more accessible, try another type of brandy. If you have whiskey or bourbon around, you can also substitute these for the cognac. Whiskey and bourbon tend to be slightly less sweet so that will give your Sidecar cocktail a slightly different taste. 

Sidecar Cocktail Recipe
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4.6 from 5 votes

Sidecar Cocktail Recipe

This classic cocktail is smooth and citrusy!
Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Keyword brandy cocktails, classic cocktail recipe, cognac cocktail, sidecar cocktail recipe
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 2 cocktails
Calories 251kcal
Author Jen Pinkston

Ingredients

  • Superfine Sugar for serving
  • 2 lemons you'll need 2 ounces of fresh lemon juice as well as the peel for garnish
  • 4 ounces Cognac or other type of brandy
  • 2 ounces orange liqueur I really like the Patrón Citrónge

Instructions

  • Begin by peeling a large section of each of the lemon rinds and placing it aside for garnish.
  • Next, cut each of the lemons into halves.
  • Place sugar on a small plate. Moisten half of rim of a coupe glass with a little of the lemon juice by placing it upside down on the cutting board. Next dip each glass into the sugar; shake off the excess and set aside.
  • Combine cognac, orange liqueur, and 2 ounces of fresh squeezed lemon juice in a cocktail shaker. Fill shaker with ice, cover, and shake vigorously until outside of shaker is very cold, about 20 seconds.
  • Strain cocktail into glass and enjoy immediately. Garnish with lemon peel.

Nutrition

Calories: 251kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 5mg | Potassium: 149mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin C: 57mg | Calcium: 28mg | Iron: 1mg

If you’ve tried this cocktail I’d love to hear from you! Be sure to leave a star rating and a comment below!

Be sure to check out these other cocktail recipes:

Vanilla Pumpkin Spice Mules

Stone Fruit Summertime Sangria

Springtime Whiskey Sour Recipe

Berry Mezcal Cooler

Smokey Old Fashioned

Photography for this Sidecar Cocktail Recipe by Katie Jameson

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  1. Sarah P.

    03/11/2021

    I made this last night for an outdoor dinner with our neighbors and it was such a hit! So citrusy and delicious! Thank you for sharing!5 stars

  2. Marilu

    02/28/2021

    I had this drink for the first time in 1980 while in college at a boyfriends parents house. It was their traditional Guest cocktail drink!
    I loved it and never forgot about it when I ordered it 18 years later at a fancy restaurant while meeting my husband for the first time on a blind date.
    He had one too! Not only a yummy ice breaker drink , but holds fun memories with me too!
    A must try for sure!3 stars

  3. Lauren S.

    12/17/2018

    YUM! Adding this to my list! Thanks for sharing!5 stars

  4. Could you substitute another alcohol for the cognac? I’ve just never had cognac so not so sure about it…5 stars

    • Jen Pinkston

      12/17/2018

      I am assuming so, it just wouldn’t be a sidecar necessarily. Cognac is a type of Brandy so any kind of brandy would work! But also, I can totally imagine this being super yummy with Gin, too.

  5. Oh my gosh I love a classic cocktail! But also I need to hear more about this dinner party… what did you make?!5 stars

    • Jen Pinkston

      12/17/2018

      Haha! It was quite the spread! The inspo was classic Christmas dinner. Maybe I’ll share the recipes I made for that here at the end of the week!

  6. I don’t think I’ve ever had a sidecar but it sounds so good!!

    Jennifer
    Effortlessly Sophisticated

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