4 parts (2 oz.) Courvoisier cognac
1 part (1/2 oz.) Cointreau
1 part (1/2 oz.) fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Sugar rim

This is where that lemon juice I mentioned went. The Sidecar may well be my favorite of the classic recipes. It’s also one of a very small number of drinks I consider to be “solved” - that is, I’ve found a way to make them that I like so much, I see no reason to deviate.

Courvoisier is far and away the best cocktail cognac. Hennessy, its closest cousin in terms of quality, has a harsh bite to it that relegates it to use in brandy/rye and brandy/bourbon cocktails, which are already covering a parallel trait in the whiskey. Courvoisier retails in the low thirties.

Cointreau is an orange liqueur with a neutral base. Most bars use it for their Sidecars. If you have your own orange liqueur, feel free to substitute it. Luxardo’s triple sec, Solerno blood orange liqueur, and the inimitable Grand Marnier all make pleasant Sidecar variations, although you should note that the substitution is not as easy in most drinks, particularly in the case of Grand Marnier. (Thus, “inimitable.”)

With a drink like this, so simple and with so few ingredients, always use fresh lemon juice. I tell people a drink is never better than its worst ingredient. Sometimes you can get away with a weak link, if it’s a bit player in the act. Here you can’t.

I recommend shaking for the Sidecar. It’s advisable for all drinks with fruit juices in them, to be sure everything distributes evenly. The bit of water from the melting ice also opens up the flavor of certain spirits, including brandy. All that said, you can stir this one without too much worry.

The eternal Sidecar question is, “Sugared rim?” The answer may be yes or no. Certainly you shouldn’t be afraid of it. The sugar is there to answer the sour of the fresh lemon. The drink works without it, but sometimes you’re in the right mood. If you’re worried you’ll look girly drinking out of a sugar-rimmed glass, stick to Old Fashioneds until you’re secure in your masculinity. The rest of you, keep reading.

To sugar a glass, pour some powdered or granulated sugar into a small dish or saucer. Please be sure your dish is larger than the glass you intend to coat, and your sugar isn’t in clumps. Chill the glass in the freezer for a few minutes. When you take it out, there will be condensation on it. Overturn the glass into the dish of sugar, and give it a few turns. The sugar will stick to the wet rim of the glass. Something similar may be accomplished by filling the glass temporarily with ice cubes to chill it, or by running a bit of lemon around the rim. So long as it’s wet, the sugar will stick.

This works any time you need to sugar a glass, or salt one, if you’re making Margaritas. Assuming all your dishes and glassware are clean, you can even return the leftover sugar to its container when you’re finished. Or revel in the decadence of pitching it. Up to you.