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There Are Only Six Cocktails (Part 4) - The Side Car

There Are Only Six Cocktails (Part 4) - The Side Car

When we talk about the finest cocktails around, we're betting the Sidecar isn't the first drink that jumps to mind. You may not have even heard of it—but we guarantee you will have heard of one or two members of the family. 

They're a rowdy bunch, the Sidecar family—sometimes sour, sometimes fruity, and often they pack a punch.


So what exactly is it?


At its heart, your standard Sidecar is a heady mix of Cognac, orange liqueur, and lemon juice. That's it, just three ingredients. Simple, right?


Well, maybe not.


You absolutely have to experiment with this cocktail due to the sheer variety of strengths and flavours from such a simple recipe list.


Rusty Barrel Cocktails Collection


But first, let's strip it back to basics and make sure we're on the same page. 

Cognac is one of those drinks. Before Rusty Barrel was born, I knew what it looked like. I even knew what it tasted like, but if someone had asked me what it was, “...It's…just…well, it's Cognac, isn't it?"

Now I'm sure you know exactly what it is,  but for the sake of clarity, Cognac is a variety of Brandy. 

Like Champagne, Burgundy, and even Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Cognac is named after the area where it is produced. Specifically, a small commune between La Rochelle and Bordeaux, South West France.

(And just in case, Brandy is a catch-all term for a drink distilled from fruit and then aged in barrels. But you knew that, didn't you?)

And like the vast range of wine varieties, Cognac can be sweet, spicy, rich, oaky, acidic, and even a combination of them all.


Then we have the orange liqueur. But again, the range of flavours available, from Cointreau to Grand Marnier, and even the unusually spelt and tricky to pronounce Curaçao (pronounced Ku-Ra-Sow) is huge.

Creating the perfect Sidecar is all about balancing the spicy, woody flavour of Cognac, the sweet orange liquor, and the lemon juice's acidic sharpness. It just means you'll just have to have fun doing your research!

You may even want to add a small amount of simple sugar syrup to knock any sharp edges off.

So here are the standard quantities that are a good base to work from, but feel free to adjust them to suit your tastes.

The Classic

  • 50 ml Cognac
  • 25 ml Cointreau
  • 25 ml lemon juice
  • 1 orange twist to garnish

The How

Add all your ingredients to a Rusty Barrel Bloomsbury Cocktail shaker and strain using the Hawthorne strainer into a chilled coupe glass.

(An Old Fashioned glass will do if you don't have a coupe.)

There should be a  small layer of foam on the top of your cocktail, which is the signature look of the Sidecar.

The Curveballs (for there are two this time!)

Now at the beginning of this blog, we said you'd recognise one or two members of the Sidecar family.

Try this variation:

  • 50 ml Tequila
  • 20 ml Cointreau
  • 25 ml lime juice
  • Sea salt and lime wedge to rim the glass


The How

As above.

Sound familiar? You just made a Margarita.



Or maybe:

  • 50 ml vodka
  • 20 ml Cointreau
  • 15 ml lime juice
  • 15 ml unsweetened cranberry juice
  • 15 ml sugar syrup
  • And an orange twist to garnish the glass.


The How

As above.

But this time, you've got a Cosmopolitan.

Rusty Barrel Cosmopolitan Cocktail


When the Cocktail Codex authors said there are only six cocktails, they really meant it. 

Just by playing with the base spirit, the ratios, and the supporting cast of ingredients, you open up a whole new world of drinks in front of you.

Before we go, it's worth talking a little about salt rimming your glass—performed as standard in almost all cocktail bars.

Whether to rim the glass or not is down to personal preference, but if you want to go for it, the technique is pretty straightforward. 

Run a citrus wedge over the outside edge of your glass, and then roll it in your rimming ingredient. Make sure you don’t get the inside rim too, as any salt dropping into your cocktail will overwhelm your cocktail.

As a rule of thumb, use the citrus in the drink you're about to make, but if your drink is fruit-free, a lemon wedge is a safe choice as it has a more neutral flavour than orange or lime.


Pro Tip: If you want to cater for all tastes, add salt to only one half of the glass—this allows your drinker to choose how much, or how little, the salt they take.

We shouldn’t need to say this, but make sure you rim the glass first. You don’t want to pour all your hard work over the floor.


And why stop with salt? Get all adventurous and add some crushed black pepper or chilli flakes into the mix (be conservative with the chilli!). Or, if you're making a sweeter cocktail, sugar and cinnamon might be a tasty alternative.

So there we have it, four cocktails down and two to go!

Next up, it's the turn of the Whisky Highball. 

Or is it Whiskey Highball?

Enjoy 🍸

Rusty Barrel Bloomsbury Cocktail

Previous article There Are Only Six Cocktails (Part 5) - The Highball
Next article There Are Only Six Cocktails (Part 3) - The Daiquiri


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