Sugar Plum Sidecar

4.75 from 4 votes

Sip on a Sugar Plum Sidecar and dream of the ballet! Made with homemade plum brandy, this festive holiday cocktail is a sweet and tart sipper.

a christmas sugar plum sidecar with fresh rosemary on a white background

Sparkly tutus, bright lights, the dulcet tones of Tchaikovsky, the unmistakable shuffle of pointe shoes hopping across the floor…

Ah, The Nutcracker. I danced ballet for 13 years of my childhood and was in The Nutcracker numerous times.

I can’t help but hum along to the music whenever I hear it. (Yes, even on TV commercials. Especially in TV commercials.)

Did you know that all the dances in the second act, when the Nutcracker Prince brings Clara (or Maria, depending on which version you are watching) to the Land of the Sweets represent different foods and drinks from around the world?

There’s the Spanish chocolate dance, the Arabian coffee dance, the Chinese tea dance, the Russian candy cane dance, and one of my favorites (who am I kidding, I love them all), the dance of Mother Ginger and her gingerbread cookies.

And then there’s the most beautiful of them all: “The Waltz of the Flowers,” which opens up to the mesmerizing dance of the famed Sugar Plum Fairy and her cavalier.

sugared cranberries on a sugar plum sidecar

And now that I’ve nerded out to you about The Nutcracker, I can safely say that dance has led me to wonder my whole life…

What is a sugar plum?

The history of the sugar plum is a bit fuzzy.

In the Georgian era, many people boiled fresh plums in sugar as a method of preservation, but not really for Christmas.

Then in the 18th and 19th centuries, people enjoyed another type of sugar plum, one that doesn’t even contain plums at all!

They were in fact, pure sugar, hard shell of sugar to create Christmas sweets called dragées or comfits, made through a process called “panning.” The word “plum” referred to the oval shape of the dragées.

Sugars are cooked over high heat on a pan in motion to coat small seeds like fennel or cardamom with a glossy, sugary coating that’s similar to M&M’s and Jawbreakers. The most similar thing we have today is Jordan almonds

Pyotr Tchaikovsky, the composer of The Nutcracker and several other famous ballets like Swan Lake, lived in Russia during the 19th century, so these luxurious dragée candies were likely his inspiration.

But these types of sugar plums faded out of popularity, leaving us with no frame of reference for the origin of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Nowadays, people make balls of sugar plum candy for Christmas with honey, dried fruits and nuts, preserves and holiday spices, and then coat them in sugar or even coconut.

Sugar Plum Brandy Cocktail

Ever since I started my blog (almost 8 years ago!) I’ve wanted to create a sugar plum cocktail that encapsulated some more Nutcracker magic.

It wasn’t until I developed this recipe for sweet, plum-infused brandy that I realized I had the perfect spirit to do just that.

My plum brandy recipe is made by infusing prunes in brandy. It was inspired by slivovitz, which is a clear, distilled spirit made from plums and is enjoyed all over Eastern Europe — the spelling and method of production vary by country.

But it is delicious! And I knew it would be perfect in a sidecar, which is a classic cocktail made with cognac, triple sec and lemon juice.

a bottle of plum brandy with a sugar plum sidecar


You only need a few ingredients to make a sugar plum sidecar.

Plum Brandy

The plum-infused brandy is what makes this cocktail in my opinion! If you can find slivovitz (or one of its sisters), then it would be perfect in this cocktail.

Or you can whip up a batch of plum brandy yourself. It will come together in just a few days, but you can let it infuse for 3 months if you want a stronger flavor.

Plum brandy in a bottle

Triple Sec

Add Grand Marnier, Cointreau or plain triple sec to add some zesty orange flavor.

Along with the lemon juice, the sweet orange liqueur gives the sweet brandy some balance.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is a staple for so many cocktails! I always recommend using fresh juice if you can.

The bottled stuff will work fine in a punch though! It still has plenty of lemon flavor.

Sugared cranberries

I used sugared cranberries with their dragée look to bejewel this cocktail.

They’re my favorite holiday cocktail garnish, and they are as pretty as sparkly rhinestones on a tutu.

I love sugared cranberries on everything, from a Yule Mule to a Christmas Margarita to a Pomegranate Mimosa.

A garnish is totally optional. You can use fresh cranberries, a raspberry or whatever you like! Even a twist of lemon zest or orange zest, like I did with this Tangerine Sidecar, would be lovely.

a sugar plum cocktail with plum brandy on a white background

How to make a plum sidecar

Making a sugar plum sidecar is easy! I serve mine in a coupe glass, but a martini glass will work great as well.

  1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.
  2. Then add the plum brandy, triple sec and lemon juice. Shake vigorously until chilled.
  3. Pour into two martini glasses. Garnish with sugared cranberries. Serve immediately.

One or two of these and you’ll go to bed with visions of sugar plums dancing in your head.

closeup of the garnish on a sugar plum sidecar

More Nutcracker Cocktail recipes

To go with your Sugar Plum cocktail, I have a few more ideas for Christmas cocktails for a Nutcracker-themed party or any December gathering.

Mother Ginger would love these Gingerbread Mules, which combine ginger beer, orange and absinthe and taste like real gingerbread.

Boozy hot chocolate can represent the dance of Spanish chocolate.

Homemade coffee liqueur can stand in for the dance of Arabian coffee.

And if we have Russian candy cane vodka too, we’ll be spinning around to the tunes of Tchaikovsky in no time.

a christmas sugar plum sidecar with fresh rosemary on a white background

Sugar Plum Sidecar

Yield: 2 cocktails
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Dance the night away with a Sugar Plum Sidecar in hand! Made with plum brandy, triple sec and lemon juice, this bejeweled cocktail pairs well with The Nutcracker soundtrack.
4.75 from 4 votes
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  • 4 ounces plum brandy
  • 1 ½ ounces Cointreau
  • 1 ½ ounces lemon juice
  • 3 sugared cranberries for garnish


  • To a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add the plum brandy, triple sec and lemon juice. Shake vigorously until chilled.
  • Pour into two martini glasses. Garnish with sugared cranberries. Serve immediately.

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nutrition information

Yield: 2 cocktails

amount per serving:

Serving: 5ounces Calories: 202kcal Carbohydrates: 8g Protein: 0.1g Fat: 0.1g Saturated Fat: 0.04g Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.03g Monounsaturated Fat: 0.01g Sodium: 3mg Potassium: 31mg Fiber: 0.1g Sugar: 7g Vitamin A: 2IU Vitamin C: 8mg Calcium: 2mg Iron: 0.1mg
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