The Sidecar

Of all the basic drinks listed in David A Embury’s Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, the Sidecar has the most dubious of back stories.


It is said that in Paris during World War I, an American Army captain often traveled around in a motorcycle sidecar. One day, when he was under the weather, he requested a libation that would help him to feel better. The bartender, trying to find something suitable to pair with the “medicinal” brandy, added Cointreau and lemon juice as a source of Vitamin C. The drink was named “Sidecar” as a tribute to its original patron, and the rest is history.

London’s Buck’s Club

Many believe that the Paris story is a very big myth, and that the true invention of the Sidecar can be traced back to the London’s famous Buck’s Club in the 1920s. The creation is most often credited to Pat MacGarry, one of the Buck’s Club’s most popular bartenders.

Or Not

Another possibility is that the Sidecar is itself a variation of the Brandy Crusta, a cocktail made with the same ingredients and which also sported a sugar rimmed glass. The most notable difference is that the Sidecar is made with Cognac rather than standard Brandy.

French School vs. English School

While the origin of the drink may not be of any consequence to the drinker, the exact proportion of what goes into the drink may be very important. While everyone agrees that the three main ingredients are Cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice, the debate about just exactly how much of each goes into the drink has spawned two schools of thought: the French School and the English School.

The French School maintains that the drink should consist of equal parts of each of the three ingredients. The English School believes that the cocktail should consist of two parts Cognac for every one part Cointreau and lemon juice. While this may not seem like it should make a difference, the taste of each of these mixes is drastically different, and can cause quite an issue when a you’re expecting your drink to taste a specific way.

The Sidecar

French School

  • 1 oz Cognac or Armagnac
  • 1 oz Cointreau
  • 1 oz Freshly squeezed lemon juice

English School

  • 1 1/2 oz Cognac or Armagnac
  • 3/4 oz Cointreau
  • 3/4 oz Freshly squeezed lemon juice

Combine ingredients in a shaker half full of ice. Shake until very cold, and strain into a cocktail glass (preferably chilled). If preferred, rim the cocktail glass with sugar before straining. Garnish with a twist of lemon or orange.

No matter how you like your Sidecar, it’s certain that what you’re getting is something classic and pleasant. Please remember to always drink responsibly and know your limit.

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