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How to Make a Heavenly Sidecar Cocktail

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Cognac is back and it’s anything but your granddaddy’s go-to drink. The grape-based spirit within the brandy family is undergoing a real renaissance and one of its best forms, the classic Sidecar cocktail, is exploding back to life in bars across the country.

Western France’s most famous distilled export jumped an estimated 62% in sales in 2020. Granted, it was not the most popular drink to begin with but the increase alone is noteworthy. It’s being appreciated more and more for its wine-like complexity and inventive cocktail bars all over the globe are finding new ways to utilize the stuff.

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The Sidecar is owed a fair amount of credit for all of this. The classic cocktail made generally of Cognac, orange liqueur, and lemon juice is in fact named after the cool-as-hell motorcycle attachment. It’s first documentation goes back to 1922, in an early recipe book. The Ritz Hotel in Paris is believed to be its birthplace and since it has become the brandy lover’s equivalent of a daiquiri.

Sullivan Doh is the brand ambassador for D’USSE. The French native has curated bar programs in cities all over, including Sydney, London, and Paris. Prior to joining the Cognac brand, Doh created Le Syndicat, a Parisian bar focused wholly on French-made booze. As a massive Cognac fan, Doh loves a good Sidecar. His recipes are below, along with an alternative take from Death & Co.

“It is a beautiful, simple cocktail, so it’s hard to make major mistakes, but I would recommend to always use fresh lemon juice for the best result,” Doh suggests. “From the base, any modification is possible, such as adding another liqueur like crème de peche, muddling fresh fruits, or topping it with soda water and creating a highball,” he says. “With good foundations, it’s easy to get creative and find what you like.”

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What’s his twist on the iconic drink? Doh likes to go light and aromatic. “My take on the classic Sidecar is the addition of orange blossom water to add delicate floral notes,” he adds.

British bartender and author Tristan Stephenson says the Sidecar is pretty much the only solid drink to come out of Prohibition, when American barkeeps were forced overseas to do their thing. “The Sidecar is surely one of the most iconic yet under-ordered cocktails around,” he writes in The Curious Bartender.

He calls the drink a “man’s aperitif,” with the citrus brightening up what might otherwise be a post-meal sipper. Like Doh, Stephenson prefers a higher Cognac-to-other-ingredient ratio. Some of the earliest recipes suggest equal parts of all three but that can lead to something he calls “flabby.” In fact, in his book, Stephenson suggests a recipe that uses tartaric acid in place of lemon juice to hold on to the nuance of the Cognac.

We believe a modest amount of fresh citrus does not harm the spirit, but do play around with different acids if you have the chance. Either way, you’ll learn to love the honey-colored classic. As Stephenson suggests, try it on its own or even with a side of fries. Cheers!

Doh’s Ideal Sidecar

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  • 1.5 oz Cognac
  • 1 oz triple sec (he suggests Cointreau)
  • .75 oz fresh lemon juice

Method: Vigorously shake in a shaker full of ice until it starts sticking to your fingers from the cold. Pour into a chilled coupe glass, with half the rim dipped in fine raw sugar. Either simple strain into the coupe, which will leave fine pieces of ice that add crispiness and freshness to the drink, or fine strain for a more delicate and bright sip. 

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Splendid Sidecar

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  • 1.5 oz Cognac
  • 1 oz triple sec (he prefers Cointreau)
  • .75 oz fresh lemon juice
  •  2 tsp orange blossom water

Method: Shake vigorously and fine strain in a coup glass with half rim of fine sugar.

Our Ideal Sidecar

The Sidecar
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(Created by Death & Co. via Cocktail Codex)

  • 1.5 oz Pierre Ferrand Ambre cognac
  • 1 oz Pierre Ferrand dry curaçao
  • .75 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon simple syrup
  • orange twist for garnish

Method: Shake all the ingredients with ice, then strain into a chilled coupe. Express the orange twist over the drink, then gently rub it around the rim of the glass and place it into the drink.

Read more: 1920s Era Cocktails

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Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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