The Sidecar; too bitter or too sweet? #100Classics

The Sidecar; too bitter or too sweet? #100Classics

When I was introduced to the Sidecar, it was anything but romantic. It was an average brandy mixed with a faux triple sec, a squeeze of lemon juice and a sugary rim. No balance, no character. {A common theme of my early bartending days}

These days, the Sidecar is the cocktail that I order first at nearly every bar.

Simply three ingredients, and depending on the quality on those ingredients, simply delicious.

This cocktail has controversial origins, with bartenders from France to the “New World” claiming ownership of its beginnings and proportions.

The most famous origin story features Harry’s New York Bar in 1920′s Paris. Supposedly an anonymous American army captain who liked to ride in a motorcycle sidecar to Harry’s, invented it.

This story has always seemed a little too general for belief.

Dale Degroff, Mr. “King Cocktail” agrees, saying that the tale is a complete fiction and the Sidecar was actually invented in New Orléans in the 19th century. “Sidecar” is a term bartenders use for the leftover liquor they pour into shot glasses.

Still a bit broad and “jargon” for my liking. Also, I just can’t believe that this cocktail started in a bar mat.

The Ritz Paris claims true ownership of the drink and it first appears in a written cocktail book in 1922 outlining as such;  in Harry MacElhone’s Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails and Robert Vermeire’s Cocktails and How to Mix Them.

Claims have been made that this is the only great cocktail to come out of prohibition. I call BS.

It then hit the Savoy Cocktail book in 1930’s (right around the time the sugar rim appeared), thus creating the historical “French School” and “English School” of thought. The French kept to equal parts of all ingredients and the English were heavy on the cognac and lighter on the Cointreau. Both played with the sugar rim.

A little farther investigation into the original ingredients of “quality brandy or cognac” and “Cointreau”, we find Cointreau being produced in 1875, and Cognac/Brandy like Remy Martin was in circulation before the 19th century even began.

Sours like the “Egg Sour” (Curaçao, cognac, lemon & egg) featured in the 1880’s manual of Jerry Thomas’ concoctions.

With all that in mind, I am of the belief that this cocktails graced the ice of French cognac makers and Cointreau blenders before the 19th century. Up to you to decide.


My sidecar relies on the original ingredients and balanced proportions with a little sweet variation.

45 ml Remy Martin VSOP

15 ml Cointreau

30 ml Fresh Lemon Juice

15 ml Simple Syrup (Honey Syrup is a nice variation)

Sugar Kissed Rim* (See Picture)

Add ingredients into shaker, hard shake and single strain into “kissed” martini glass.


Just a “kiss” of sugar, not the whole rim please.

 When “re-creating” any of the classics here are 2 rules to live by; 

1) No Spirit is “too expensive” to mix. 

2) Classic recipe’s serve as a great starting point for creativity. With so many commercial products available at such a high quality, you need only change the brand name to change the cocktail by as much as 100%.

Remy Martin Coasters

Remy Martin VSOP has 240 Eau De Vie’s, and serves as one of the best cognac for this cocktail. Hennessey cognacs have fewer Eau De Vie’s and offers a “flatter” palate for this cocktail. Still good, just not as good.

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  • philippegbois

    […] and had many decent drinks along the way. But there was one moment that truly resonated. It was a Sidecar, at the Bar Hemingway, in the Ritz […]

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