Pitcher Cocktails: The Grapefruit Sidecar

Twist: Grapefruit. Classic: Brandy.

Grapefruit Sidecar Recipe | A Practical Wedding

This Grapefruit Sidecar is first in our series of big-batch signature cocktails for your wedding, otherwise known as pitcher cocktails. We’ve written about how to prepare these cocktails in big batches well in advance, so review that and meet me back here. Right? Done? Good. As discussed, all cocktail recipes are essentially ratios. For these cocktails, I’m going to give you the recipe for one cocktail (which one should always have, just in case) and then the basic ratio.

We’re beginning with the Grapefruit Sidecar, because as far as I’m concerned the Sidecar is one of those cocktail staples everyone should be familiar with. They are just spirit driven enough to make you feel adult, while still being sweet and sour enough that you don’t have to be someone who drinks your whisky neat (me) to enjoy it. Plus, it has a sugar rim. SUGAR RIM! Even people who only like drinks that taste like candy (Maddie) can enjoy sipping from a sugar rim.

These days, it’s popular to make Sidecars with bourbon. And as much as I’m a whiskey cocktail fan, I prefer my Sidecar made with brandy, as God intended. But bourbon Sidecars are (obviously) pretty good as well. The drink is traditionally made with lemon juice, but to give it that signature cocktail twist, we made ours with grapefruit juice. If you use grapefruit juice, we found that you need to add a little bit of simple syrup, to mellow the grapefruit’s harsh. Go very easy on the simple syrup, as this is not a particularly sweet cocktail. You want just enough so you don’t pucker your mouth. And if you go with a traditional lemon juice sidecar, for goodness sake, leave the simple syrup out.

Grapefruit Sidecar

4 ounces brandy
2 ounce grapefruit juice
2 ounces Triple Sec
.5–1 ounce simple syrup (to taste)

Grapefruit Sidecar Ratio 

4 parts brandy, 2 parts grapefruit juice, 2 parts Triple Sec, 1 part simple syrup (Remember, though, there’s a little fudging to be done with the simple syrup.)

For 100 cocktails, you need

400 ounces brandy
200 ounces grapefruit juice
200 ounces Triple Sec
50–100 ounces simple syrup

Grapefruit Sidecar Recipe | A Practical Wedding
(SPARKLE!) Sugar Rim 

With signature cocktails being served en masse, you generally want to go strategic, if not easy, on the garnishes. But sugar rims are what makes the Sidecar a Sidecar, so here it’s necessary. In these photos we used pearlized cake decorating sugar from Michael’s to create a gold glitter sugar rim, for extra fabulousness (for a mind-blowing range of options—hello glitter stars—head here). Make sure your bar is stocked with lemon to moisten the rim of the glass, and saucers or plates of sugar. With a little practice, even a non-pro bartender should be able to rim a glass with sugar pretty easily. Here is a great tutorial. Prepping a bunch of glasses in advance? Not a bad idea.

With a Twist

Here we garnished the cocktails with a twist of grapefruit (because it makes a pretty picture). But in real life? I’d skip it. If you don’t want to skip it, you create twists with a vegetable peeler (and then you literally twist it with your hands). No big thing, unless you have to do it forty times in a row.


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  • Laura C

    As far as I can remember, the first time I had a sidecar was at a wedding. Bride from Boston, groom from Long Island, signature drinks = Boston sidecar and Long Island iced tea. Delicious and also very quick bar service.

  • swarmofbees

    Somehow you are channeling my wedding! First with the Brooklyn, “where we live”, cocktail and now with the “let’s pick some Grapefruit from Mom and Dad’s backyard” Sidecar. If you do potted cactus cake toppers next I will start to get suspicious!

    • Meg Keene

      Potted cactus cake topper cocktails, you are on to us.

      • swarmofbees

        If only there were edible cactus glitter …

        • KC

          I know of no edible cactus glitter (sigh), but edible cactus confetti can be made with edible paper or super-thinly-rolled fondant or marzipan and a scrapbooking cactus punch…

  • Yum! Can I have one now?

    • And does it come with the dress? Because pitcher of these + party dress with gold polka dots = dream life.

      • ditto to all of this

      • Can us married gals have a separate glittery polka dot dress sidecar party??? EVERYONE is invited. I just don’t have a wedding to plan anymore.

      • Meg Keene

        Sad truth: post pregnancy my rib cage is too big for that dress. SIGH. This picture is me faking it.

        • stella

          Nooooo! Could you have a lace up back added?

          • KC

            Oooh! Lacing up over a gold panel with a gold skirt panel pouf below!!!

            (also known as: A Petition to Somehow Save the Gold Polka-Dot Dress)

          • Alyssa M

            So worth a trip to the seamstress to find out.

        • Kelsey

          Oh I was so excited to see its triumphant return!!

        • Lawyerette510

          Where is the dress from? It’s so lovely!

          • Meg Keene

            Vintage, of course. Sadly.

          • Lawyerette510

            Oh that is the saddest. I did find a metallic polka dot dress on Nordstroms, and it should be coming in a few weeks, so fingers crossed, though I don’t think it will be as swell as yours.

          • Maddie Eisenhart

            Oooh look what our newest intern Breck just found! This is the closest to Meg’s dress I’ve ever seen.


          • Lawyerette510

            Gah! I know, I saw this and was so sad it was only available in an 8 and 10!

          • Maddie Eisenhart

            Oh wait, apparently not if you buy it from her site directly!


          • Lawyerette510

            Agghhh! Most exciting day ever! Thank you Maddie and Breck!

  • Um, this may be the prettiest shoot I’ve ever seen on APW!

    • Meg Keene

      THANK YOUUUUUUUUU. It was actually our first practice styling shoot. I almost gave up halfway through, but in conclusion, I didn’t suck!

  • Fiona

    I LOVE that you are doing a pitcher coctail series! …so practical. Could you do one for a mojito?

    • Meg Keene

      Mojitos are tricky, but we’ll try!

      • Fiona

        Thanks! You’re the bomb

  • Karen

    Question: Is the grapefruit juice supposed to be the kind with sugar added? (e.g. “ruby red”). Or is it meant to be 100% pure unsweetened juice? Thanks!

  • KC

    Random note that grapefruit peel can be candied (like orange, but you want to blanch it extra; there are recipes online), if one wanted to do that, for a garnish that could be produced a looong way ahead of time.

    Extra-random note is that one *could* use itsy-bitsy aspic cutters to make tons of little tiny grapefruit-peel hearts that would float in the drink (I think they would float, anyway? I’m not familiar with the density of this specific beverage; clearly, testing would be necessary). It’d be lot faster than individual curls (and more out of each grapefruit’s worth of peel), but only worth it if a garnish is worth it.

    And extra-extra random note is that to rim a ton of things fast, get an assembly line set up with a tray of glasses, a plateful of simple syrup (or similar), a plateful of sugar (or whatever you’re using), and an empty tray. Dunk, dunk, next; add simple syrup to your plate if it runs low, swap trays of glasses when full/empty. Anyway, no tidy swiping-around-the-rim is needed when you’re doing things en masse. :-)

  • stella

    Oh good, I needed to figure out how to use all the grapefruits from our tree!

  • Kate Juergens

    Your new series on big batch cocktails is just in time! May I submit a request for some gin cocktail ideas? We are gin fans, and we’re having three different kinds at our April wedding reception. Trying to come up with three easy recipes that we can prepare in advance.

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