I’ve tried all kinds of sidecar cocktail recipes but none of them really hit the spot. They’re either too sour from the lemon, too sweet from the orange liqueur, or too harsh from inexpensive brandy. But I’ve always been intrigued because they seem to be a second cousin to my favorite drink—the whiskey sour. I use good but, obviously, not the best Cognac.–Ina Garten

Sidecar Cocktail FAQs

Can I use brandy instead of cognac in this cocktail?

Cognac is a type of brandy that is only made in the Cognac region of France, while brandy can come from anywhere in the world. The biggest difference is that Cognac has a distinct taste, noted for being subtle and elegant. Either way, go with something good but not too good. Don’t waste your very best stuff in a mixed cocktail but do use something befitting a Countess, natch.

I don’t like sugary drinks. Do I have to use the sugared rim in this recipe?

We’d suggest that you still use the sugar on the rim. Even our testers who are sugar-adverse thought that it added to the overall balance of flavor. Go lightly, if you prefer, but we wouldn’t advise going without it.

Will it make a difference if I use another orange liqueur instead of Grand Marnier?

Garten calls for Grand Marnier here because the alcoholic volume (ABV) is close to that of Cognac, balancing the flavors. You can substitute Cointreau easily, as it has the same ABV at 40% and is a good mix of sweet and bitter. You can use Triple Sec but it has a lower ABV—it will still be good, just not as well-rounded.

A sidecar cocktail, ice cubes and a dried cherry garnish, in a highball glass with a sugared rim.

Sidecar Cocktail

5 / 3 votes
This sidecar cocktail is just the right mix of lemon juice, Cognac, and Grand Marnier. I decided to tackle the recipe (I know, my job is grueling) and came up with my version, which I think hits all the right notes.
David Leite
Servings2 drinks
Calories482 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Total Time10 minutes


  • 3 ounces (1/3 cup) fresh lemon juice, plus the juice of 1 lemon for sugaring the glass rims
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries
  • 6 ounces (3/4 cup) good Cognac, (VS but not VSOP)
  • 3 ounces (1/3 cup) Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
  • Ice


  • Pour the juice of 1 lemon into a shallow bowl and place the sugar on a small plate. Dip the rim of 2 highball or martini glasses first in the lemon juice and then in the sugar. Set them aside to dry.
  • In a small bowl, combine the dried cherries with 2 ounces (1/4 cup) Cognac and microwave on high for 60 seconds. (Alternatively, heat the Cognac in a small saucepan until it comes to a bare simmer. Remove from the heat, add the cherries, and set aside to plump.)
  • Combine the 3 ounces lemon juice with the remaining 4 ounces Cognac, the Grand Marnier, and 1 teaspoon marinated cherry liquid. Fill a cocktail shaker 3/4 full with ice and pour in the cocktail mixture. Shake the mixer for a full 30 seconds (it’s longer than you think!) and strain into the prepared glasses, whether straight up or over ice. Thread 3 or 4 marinated cherries onto each of 2 skewers. Serve each drink with a skewer of cherries.
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Serving: 1 drinkCalories: 482 kcalCarbohydrates: 53 gProtein: 1 gFat: 1 gSaturated Fat: 1 gSodium: 7 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 48 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2012 Ina Garten. Photo © 2012 Quentin Bacon. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

The sidecar is one of those cocktails that has the perfect balance of sweet, sour, and alcoholic punch. Personally, I like to skip the sugared rim, but I think most will find it to be a nice touch.

Feel free to substitute any orange liqueur, such as Cointreau, for the Grand Marnier. The cherry garnish here isn’t traditional, as far as I know, but think about it…dried cherries are pretty darn good on their own, so heat them in brandy, then let them marinate in a sidecar, and you might find yourself making the drink for the cherries alone.

I normally don’t drink a lot of hard liquor, but this drink was delicious. It was a perfect balance of sweet and sour and the dried cherries were a nice touch. I must’ve had really small dried cherries because there was a lot left over after I threaded 4 on each skewer and there was also a bit of liquid left over after I microwaved the cherries. But all in all, it was a yummy drink and more than enough for 2 people.

I’d never had a sidecar, but I love cocktails. And I loved the freshness of the lemon in this drink—and, surprisingly, I enjoyed the sugared rim (I normally don’t like “sugary” drinks). I’m not sure adding the marinated cherry juice really added anything to the drink, but munching on the cherries while sipping was pure pleasure!

Does anyone else remember when Rory Gilmore turned 21 and Emily Gilmore threw her a party complete with a signature cocktail named the Rory? If I had a signature cocktail at my next “long past 21″ birthday party, I think I’d request this sidecar. Good Cognac and Grand Marnier in the same glass!

I did have cherry juice and Cognac left in the bowl after warming them, so my recommendation is to plan ahead and microwave the cherries and Cognac in the morning or the day before, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the cherries soak up all that goodness until cocktail time!

I love ALL Ina Garten’s recipes, and this one is no exception. I’d never made—or even tried—a sidecar cocktail before today. We ended up making these (and some old fashioneds) for a Prohibition party we hosted. This was the most popular drink by far. It was very easy to make. The cherry skewers were easy and made the drinks look extra fancy. These were perfect for our party.

I remember my parents used to make these and I thought they were so exotic! After reading about the dried cherries (instead of those artificial red things), I was determined to try this recipe. It was wonderful and worked for me as written.

I had barely a teaspoon of marinated cherry liquid. I think if you had nice, fresh, plump dried cherries this wouldn’t be a problem. This drink was a hit at a small cocktail party for 6 of us. I did, however, catch one guest hoarding all the cherries. My advice is to marinate more. Great recipe!

I love coming home from work Friday afternoons and taking the time to make a nice cocktail—or, in this case, two of them. I’m not ashamed to admit that I enjoyed both sidecars myself…about an hour apart.

This recipe makes a fine drink with a balanced flavor and a nice kick. Just make sure to sugar the rim of the glass as the recipe instructs. Since the recipe does not include any sweetener, the sugar on the rim is essential for the balance of the drink. The cherries add a nice depth and interesting texture and taste to the drink. They also make for a beautiful seasonal garnish this time of year.

The recipe makes more cherries than you need, but that isn’t an issue—just nibble on them. After microwaving the cherries, you’re left with about 2 or 3 teaspoons of liquid. I served my drinks in a well-chilled cocktail glass straight up.

Quite delicious. I loved the tartness the lemon juice adds, but quite honestly, the dried cherries (after absorbing the Cognac) are like a special treat. I think I could get used to making those all by themselves.

That being said, there was some Cognac left after microwaving the cherries. They did absorb most of the booze, but the little that was left didn’t really add any “cherry” flavor. I’m not sure that was the intention, or if that method was just to make the cherries amazing.

Last, but certainly not least, the sugared rim on the glass is a must! Really makes the drink special. I prefer this sidecar cocktail served on the rocks.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    This is an excellent recipe for a wonderful cocktail. If you’re in the throes of your own cocktail epiphany, the Sidecar is a great place to start: refreshing, not too sweet, simple to make, and somewhat sophisticated all at once. I know that this is blasphemy, but if you’re just starting out and want to dip your toes in the wonderful world of Sidecars, using Triple Sec isn’t a bad idea as it’s 4 times less expensive. Adding Cointreau or Grand Marnier does make this cocktail better, yet it won’t make it 4 times better…and since they have 3 times the alcohol than Triple Sec, you will be hammered after just two of these delightful concoctions. Either way you make it, this is a great drink. Enjoy!

    1. Can’t argue with you on any of your points, Joseph. Many thanks for sharing your thoughts and tips…!