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The Sidecar – A Week in Review

Posted by Aaron On June - 27 - 2008

Today marks the end of our first week here at, a week of tasting, and experimenting with, one of my all-time favorite cocktails, the Sidecar.  Throughout the week, Reese and I have tested many different recipes, some of them exceptional, and some of them not so much.

Of the many lessons we’ve learned about the Sidecar this week, the most important, I think, and this is apparent to me only now as I review our tasting notes, the key to a good sidecar is equal parts Cointreau and lemon juice.  While the amount of brandy can vary significantly between recipes and still produce a very tasty cocktail, it seems that altering the balance of Cointreau and lemon has only a negative affect on the overall quality of the final drink.

Also of note, as Reese and I imbibed cocktail after cocktail, it became clear that we were, in fact, each looking for a Sidecar with somewhat different qualities.  While my associate tended more toward the drier of the Sidecar recipes, my tastes ran more to the sweet.  After much debate, and several black eyes (I’ll never be pretty again), we’ve each decided to name a favorite recipe.

Reese’s preferred concoction places the brandy upfront and allows the sweet and sour components to mingle softly [ed note – We’re going to need to call a wordsmith from the wordsmithery to clean up this sentence] in the background:

  • 2 parts Cognac
  • 1 part Cointreau
  • 1 part Lemon Juice

My preference was for the “original” recipe, calling for equal parts brandy, Cointreau, and lemon juice.  This recipe, while certainly not something to waste high quality Cognac on, provides a nice balance of flavors, and is also a good choice for those rare occasions when a person cannot be assured of their ingredients’ quality:

  • 1 part Cognac
  • 1 part Cointreau
  • 1 part Lemon Juice

Two of the other recipes we’ve enjoyed this week:

Robert Hess’ recipe which we both liked, but Reese found to be “a little too poundable” (it’s like we’re from different planets, Reese and I):

  • 4 parts Cognac
  • 2 parts Cointreau
  • 1 part Lemon Juice

And the Difford’s, which places the Cognac way up front, but still maintains a balanced sweet and sour component:

  • 3 parts Cognac
  • 1 part Cointreau
  • 1 part Lemon Juice

The Sidecar – Embury’s Recipe

Posted by Reese On June - 25 - 2008


We whipped up a batch of Sidecars per Embury’s original recipe from Difford’s Guide to Cocktails #7.  Which in our case was composed of:

2 oz Courvoisier VSOP Cognac
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Cointreau

Have to say that we agree this cocktail is dry like the Mojave Desert.  Although, the good quality Cognac saved it.  It was a tasty cocktail, but not what we were really looking for in a Sidecar, much too dry.  So I went searching to see what other’s had to say about the recipe.  Much to my surprise what I found is that the recipe listed in Difford’s Guide is not in fact the authentic Embury recipe at all.  Although close, the Embury recipe is even drier!

2 oz Cognac
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/4 oz Cointreau

Dropping what little Cointreau there was in the Difford’s recipe to 1/4 oz would result in basically lightly flavored Cognac.  At this point, I have to come clean and say that I didn’t even hazard the “True” Embury Sidecar.  Thankfully there are other recipes, better recipes in fact.  So on that note I go to test another recipe so you, dear reader, need not encounter the desert dry Embury Sidecar.

The Sidecar

Posted by Reese On June - 21 - 2008

The first cocktail we’re going to investigate is one of the Six Basic Drinks identified by David A. Embury in his classic cocktail book The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, namely The Sidecar.  Over the next six weeks we’re going to discuss each of Embury’s basic drinks, one per week.  Each of these cocktails requires different ingredients and plays upon the uniqueness of each’s base spirit.  As such, these will be a good starter set of cocktails to begin building your bar and collecting the tools needed to craft fine cocktails.

Motorcycle Sidecar

Wikipedia points out the origin of The Sidecar is unknown, but mentions the story that Embury claims is true.

“It was invented by a friend of mine at a bar in Paris during World War I and was named after the motorcycle sidecar in which the good captain customarily was driven to and from the little bistro where the drink was born and christened.” – David A. Embury, The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks

Now, whether this story is true or not is anyone’s guess.  More likely is the origin that Robert Vermiere includes in his book, Cocktails: How to Mix Them.

“This cocktail is very popular in France. It was first introduced in London by MacGarry, the celebrated bar-tender of Buck’s Club.”

This version seems much more likely to me.  But, true or not, I like the story of an Army Captain being driven to the bar in a sidecar to get his favorite Brandy drink.  So, as only seems fitting, the recipe we’ll start our investigation with is Embury’s own recipe as listed in Difford’s Guide to Cocktails #7.

Embury's Recipe for The Sidecar*:
2 oz Brandy
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Cointreau
* As per Difford's Guide to Cocktails #7

The ingredients you’ll want to pick up for this cocktail are as follows.

  • Brandy or Cognac
  • Lemons (1 large lemon will usually give ~1oz)
  • Triple Sec (Preferably Cointreau)

Both Brandy and its more elegant sibling Cognac can be used to make this cocktail.  But keep in mind that the Brandy will be a major flavor component in the final drink so get something you wouldn’t mind drinking straight.  Same can be said for the Triple Sec (Cointreau is simply a top shelf Triple Sec).  However, its presence is less pronounced due to the fact that we’re using such a comparatively small amount.

You’ll also need a few basic tools to make this drink.

  • Cocktail Shaker
  • Strainer
  • Cocktail (Martini) Glass
  • Measuring Device (Jigger)

We’ll report back throughout the week on our investigations and on Friday we’ll summarize our findings and our favorite recipes.  Until then, enjoy your cocktails.