The Sidecar Cocktail: A Classic Beset By War, Whimsy and a Bit on the Side

The Sidecar is a one-wheeled car for a single passenger attached to the side of a motorcycle. The Sidecar is also a drink that, as popular lore has it, was invented at a bar in Paris for a World War I American Army Captain who liked to arrive in the whimsical vehicle.

One version of the sidecar
One version of the sidecar

Dale DeGroff, in his book The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks, argues that the term "invention" is misleading, as the drink is merely a twist on the Brandy Crusta, which was invented in New Orleans by a man named Santini. DeGroff goes so far as to debunk entirely the customer-in-a-one-wheeled-vehicle as pure myth. "The word sidecar means something totally different in the world of the cocktail: If the bartender misses his mark on ingredient quantities so when he strains the drink into the serving glass there's a bit left over in the shaker, he pours that little extra into a shot glass on the side -- that little glass is called a sidecar."

Whether you're a fan of legend or a stone-cold realist, the drink remains. In honor of the two disparate takes, here are two recipes. Choose the one you like best and make up your own fanciful tale to accompany it.

The Sidecar

With crusta rim.

Makes: 1 drink

Note: Adapted from Dale DeGroff's The Essentail Cocktail.


Slice of citrus

1 1/2 ounces Cognac

3/4 ounce Cointreau

3/4 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1. As far as several hours before you plan on imbibing, prepare your crusta, or sugar-rimmed glass. Pour a good amount of sugar onto a plate. Holding your cocktail glass upside-down to avoid juices getting in it, rub a piece of citrus around the rim -- preferably lemon given that it is also part of the drink. Then gently dip and roll the edges of your glass in the sugar, coating the entire circumference of the glass. Shake off any excess and let it sit out on the counter until the sugar is completely hardened. Transfer to your freezer and chill. Literally.

2. Shake the Cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice with ice.

3. Strain and pour into your sugar-encrusted glass.

The Sidecar

Without crusta rim

Makes: 1 drink

1 1/2 ounces Cognac

1 ounce Cointreau

1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1. Shake the above ingredients with ice.

2. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

3. Flamed orange peel optional .

* Because this recipe forgoes the crusta, the amount of Cointreau is bumped up as a sweetener, and the lemon juice is toned down to offset it.

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