I love a good story, even better when the story is told about a fantastic cocktail!
The French 75 is a classic, pre-prohibition cocktail first created at the New York bar in Paris, France in 1915. The cocktail derives its name from one of the world’s most formidable field guns at the time, the French 75mm Howitzer. It was said by imbibers at the time that the cocktail possessed the kick of a French 75. Harry Craddock, who first recorded the recipe in The Savoy Cocktail book in 1930, remarked that the drink “hits with remarkable precision!”
The French 75 is also a cocktail not without some controversy. The recipe in Craddock’s book records gin as the cocktail’s base spirit, to which one adds lemon juice, sugar and then Champagne to finish up. In David Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks (1948), one of my favorite cocktail guides, the base spirit is listed as Cognac. Much more French, I’d say, but with a decidedly heavier presence.
I’ve tried both versions and think they are just wonderful in their own way. The gin-based version has a lively palate that is refreshing and tart with a complex nose from the botanicals of the gin (I chose Tanqueray 10 as the base). The Cognac-based version has more depth and body with pleasing hints of vanilla and caramel – almost like a Sidecar with bubbles… In any event, the cocktail is visually striking and a fine way to awaken one’s spirit after a long day in the trenches!
The French 75 (Classic)
2 oz. London Dry Gin
2 tsp of super fine sugar
½ oz. lemon juice
5 oz. Brut Champagne (approximate)
Vigorously shake the gin, sugar and lemon juice with crushed ice. Strain into a Champagne flute and top off with Brut Champagne. Garnish with a twist is optional.
I’ve seen this cocktail on several menus in Boston over the past 3 months. The descriptions are equally divided between the cognac base and the gin base with the same historical context. You are, as ever, on the cutting edge. Or better said, on the sugared rim, of all things sophisticated adult beverage!
Thanks, Denise – I’m not sure if something originally created in 1915 can actually be called “cutting edge,” but I’ll take it! Cheers!