Gin may be cool, bourbon certainly sweet, and rye the next big thing – but brandy just rocks.  Cognac, Armagnac, American alembic – its all good.   And its even better in the only good cocktail to come out of Prohibition.  Because honestly, anything that involves mixing “bathtub” whatever with something is still going to taste like shit.  So it makes a certain amount of sense that the one good cocktail from that time period came from overseas where Prohibition was likely seen as the Americans going off on one of their periodic mass psychoses.

Where exactly the Sidecar was invented is lost to time,  but it is believed to have come from either London or Paris around World War I.   The Hotel Ritz in Paris claims to have come up with the recipe; others claim it was Harry’s Bar in Paris, a popular hangout for American expatriates of the Lost Generation.  The earliest recipes show up in 1922 in a couple of sources, including Harry MacElhone’s Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails.  (The same Harry from Harry’s Bar.)   In Harry’s own book, he originally claimed it was invented in London at the famous Buck’s Club by bartender Pat McGarry, who also invented the Buck’s Fizz, which we know as the Mimosa.  (What’s with all these famous Scottish bartenders from the 1920s? I have no idea – maybe its good training to grow up serving lots of ornery heavy drinkers in kilts.)  In later additions, Harry would claim he invented it himself.

My favorite origin story, because its so ridiculous, comes from Embury who claims it was the favorite drink of an American Army captain in Paris during WWI and named after the motorcycle sidecar the captain would ride in.  It was supposedly his favorite way to warm up  during the winter after a brisk ride in his sidecar.  Silly? Possibly.  Fucking awesome? A heavy drinking captain during the Great War zooming around on some insane contraption in the middle of Paris, his scarf flying in the wind like Snoopy fighting the Red Baron, regularly ending up at the same bar and downing a French twist on the American Cocktail? Hells yeah.

In truth, the Sidecar is a variation of a classic Sour – with brandy as the spirit and triple sec as the sweetener.  Regardless of who or where it was invented, today there are two basic recipes – the “French” version and the “English” version.   The French version calls for equal parts cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice – its a fairly light, citrusy, refreshing drink.   The alternative English version is the modern classic, more complex and robust with a 2:1:1 ratio.  I personally prefer the latter, but with the Sidecar, the exact proportions are entirely a matter of personal taste.  Some folks also like the addition of a sugared rim – but I often go without.


English version:

2 oz. brandy
1 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. lemon juice

French version:

1 oz. brandy
1 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. lemon juice

Shake and strain into cocktail glass.  Sugared rim optional.


2 thoughts on “Sidecar

  1. damien says:

    One of my personal favourite Cocktails of all time. We put together a small profile and video of this classic cocktail that you might find interesting

  2. […] crisp flavor.  I’ve got a weakness for the family of drinks known as Sours – like the Sidecar, the Margarita, or the Whiskey Sour.  Cold, short, refreshing.  Use fresh lime and sugar, stay […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: