The Sidecar - Image Courtesy of Difford's Guide

What You Should Be Drinking: The Sidecar

The Sidecar

Cognacs are not generally what most people picture as cocktail ingredients – usually the image is of a cigar-chomping man in a smoky members’ club with a slug of booze in a brandy balloon, or of stars of music videos sipping Hennessy on ice.  Have faith, this is not the limit of its capability, and it’s certainly not sacrilege to mix a good cognac into a marvellous Sidecar.

The Margarita is actually a distant cousin of this drink, as is the Cosmopolitan, so you (or Sarah Jessica Parker) owe it a debt of gratitude.   So, if you’re a fan of Margaritas, you may want to give The Sidecar a try.

Again, I’m going to turn to the great Gary Reagan (now Gaz Regan! – check him out at for the recipe, because frankly, what he doesn’t know about mixing drinks, I don’t want to know.

Gary Reagan’s Sidecar

  • 1½oz cognac
  • 1 oz triple sec
  • ½ oz fresh lemon juice

How to Make It

Start by getting yourself a cocktail (martini) glass, and filling it with some ice and water.  Set it to one side and let it chill.

Now, take a cocktail shaker and fill that with ice.  To it, add an ounce and a half of cognac, one ounce of triple sec – Cointreau works well here – and a half ounce of fresh lemon juice.  Empty the ice and water out of the glass now that it’s chilled, shake the ingredients and strain into the glass.

The garnish is where we might fall out a bit.  I generally can’t be bothered with frosted (i.e. sugar or salt-coated) rims.  They tend to annoy me more than I enjoy them, and they get stuck in my beard.  The Sidecar does call for a sugar-frosted rim, but I don’t drink it with one.  If you do – here’s how to do it properly.

Frosting the Rim

Doing this properly is more critical when you’re using salt, as nobody wants a Margarita full of brine, but it’s a useful skill none-the-less.  After you empty the ice and water out of the glasss, quickly dry it.  Pour a healthy amount of white sugar onto a flat side plate or saucer.  Cut a wedge of lemon, give it a gentle squeeze to release some juice, and run it around the outside of the edge of the glass.  It’s up to you how thick you make the rim, but I like to frost just the very edge.

Once you’ve put the juice on the edge of the glass, turn it over, and place the rim in your sugar-filled plate.  Give it a bit of a turn and move it around to make sure it’s evenly coated, and inspect your work.  If you’ve done it right, you should have a nice even sugar coating.


To finish, cut a strip of lemon peel approximately 5cm (2”) long and 1cm (a little less than ½”) wide.  Make sure you just get the peel – try to get as little of the pith as you can (the white bit – it’s bitter) – then wrap the peel around a straw into a tight spiral.  Drop into the glass.

Now drink, and enjoy your handiwork.


Thanks to Difford’s Guide for the image.


  1. Hey, Nathan,

    Good piece on a favorite drink of mine — slightly obscure nowadays, but I’ve found most middling barkeeps can pull one off.

    One thing I’d add: I like to use equal parts lemon juice and Cointreau and lean on the sugar rim for the sweetness. My test is if it’s drinkable without the sugared rim, the drink itself is too sweet.

    This way you get this wonderful sense of the sweet and tart actually coming together for the first time in your lips and mouth — like mixing a drink in your very person. Odd, I know. Like some “deconstructed” dish at a high-concept restaurant.

    Not sure I’ve found that in another drink.

    1. Hey Craig!

      Glad you like it – and great tip about the deconstruction. This is an idea I’ve toyed with, back when I used to be behind ‘the stick’. I imagined a deconstructed watermelon martini – part food, almost hors d’oeurve, part drink. Never got to deliver the concept.

      I did make a Ramos Gin Fizz sorbet once, though… Now that’s worth writing about!

      Oh, and happy belated birthday!


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