Who Invented the Sidecar Cocktail?

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An irresistible combination of cognac, triple sec, and lemon juice, the Sidecar has been a classic cocktail at the top of every good mixologist’s repertoire since the end of the First World War. So where did this delicious drink come from and who is responsible for bringing it to the public?

The History of the Sidecar Cocktail

Who actually invented the Sidecar is still up for debate. Some believe that the drink was first blended in France, in Harry’s New York Bar, by Harry MacElhone. The preferred drinking spot for many celebrities of the era, including Ernest Hemingway, Coco Chanel, and Humphrey Bogart, this bar had a reputation for serving the finest drinks.

It is thought that an American army captain also used to visit the establishment on a regular basis, getting a lift in the sidecar of his friend’s motorcycle. They would visit before dinner and wanted drinks that would warm them up before they went to eat. Since it was considered too early to drink cognac on its own, the bartender created the Sidecar as a suitable alternative.

Around the same time, the drink appeared in a bar in London. So the argument is often around who made it first. Pat McGarry was a bartender at the Buck’s Club at the time. He also invented the Buck’s Fizz, so he had form for creating drinks that quickly made their way into popular culture. The story of the name is almost exactly the same. But did he discover it in Paris and take it to London? Or did Harry find it in London and take it back to Paris?

Well, it is possible that neither story is true! Many people simply think of the Sidecar as a variation of the Brandy Crusta, while bartender Frank Meister insists that he invented the drink while at The Ritz in Paris.

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The Exact Measurements

Not only are there arguments over who created the drink, but it seems few people can agree on the right proportions of it either! While the English version, and the one you’ll find on Make Me a Cocktail, call for two parts brandy, one part triple sec, and one part lemon juice, the French version suggests equal amounts of all ingredients. Almost everyone agrees that the glass should have a sugar rim to keep the drink sweet.

The best bet is to make your own Sidecar at home and experiment with proportions until you get a drink to your taste.

And if you want to play with this drink a little more, you might like to make a Chelsea Sidecar, a Yard House Orange Agave Sidecar, a Winter Sidecar, or a Boston Sidecar!

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Bartender's top tip

Balance is key in mixology. Always measure ingredients. A dash less or more can transform a drink. Experiment with fresh garnishes; they can elevate even the simplest cocktails to new heights.

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