rye whiskey, social hour, tom macy, cocktail, classic cocktail

French 75

Overview

When it comes to cocktails with Champagne/ or sparkling wine, the French 75 reigns supreme, (apologies to the Champagne Cocktail and Mimosa).   It is basically a Tom Collins with champagne instead of soda water (yes please). The proportions of gin, lemon and sugar are less than they are in a Tom Collins, because we’re adding more booze in the form of Champagne, but the ratios are the same.

 

It’s a drink that accomplished many things at once, it’s crisp, refreshing, as well as strong and sophisticated.  It also has a rich history (the name is comes from a piece of French Artillery), is perfect for groups and one of the easiest cocktails to modify to make new creations. It’s also the perfect brunch cocktail.  Basically, this one is a must make.  Just make sure the Champagne is cold!

If you make a French 75, let me see!  Tag a photo with #socialhourcocktails on Instagram.

Recipe

 

  • 1 oz gin

  • ½ oz lemon juice

  • ½ oz simple syrup

  • 2-3 oz chilled Brut Champagne or another dry sparkling wine.

  • lemon peel for garnish.

Combine gin, lemon and simple syrup in a shaker, fill with ice.  Shake for 6-8 seconds and strain into a champagne flute.  Top with the Champagne or sparkling wine. Garnish with the expressed lemon peel.

 

 

Commentary

 

Gin vs. Cognac

Some old recipes for the French 75 call for Cognac in place of gin, though gin was first and today it seems to be the more common option of the two.  Cognac is perhaps more intuitive, being a French ingredient, and it certainly makes a great drink, so it’s up to you.  My preference lies with gin.

 

Collins Glass Version vs. Champagne Flute Version

Many early recipes for a French 75 stick even closer to the Tom Collins script,  with literally the only difference being Champagne in place of soda water.  These recipes call for the drink to be served in a collins glass with ice, not  a flute, with 2 whole ounces of gin.   This isn't my preferred recipe.  I'm not saying it's bad drink by any means, but it is perilous.

 

The added dilution from the ice, plus the shape of the collins glass both encourage quicker drinking.  So it's a drink with 2 ounces of gin plus 3-4 ounces of champagne that goes down like the best lemon soda you’ve ever had in your life.  You can do the math.

 

I find the smaller proportioned, iceless, French 75 in flute more elegant, and, at the risk of sounding prudish, more mature.  And it's still extremely potent, trust me.  But if you are determined to have the true 1920s French 75 experience, by all means proceed, at your own risk.

The French 75 Story

People have been combining gin, lemon, sugar and Champagne as bar back as the 19th century.  But a drink bearing the name French 75 representing this concoction, didn't appear until  1927 in a little cocktail booklet called here’s how Here’s How, written by Judge Jr.  It was put out by a New York publisher, of which Judge was a partner.   Note this is during prohibition in America, which is why the French 75 is considered pretty much the only prohibition era cocktail created in America that survives today.  

 

The romanticization of speakeasies has led to the perception that prohibition was a cocktail golden age, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Prohibition is where classic cocktails went to die.  People weren’t discerning about what they drank, they took whatever they could get.  Thus, an entire generation of educated drinkers and drink-makers was lost.  The only good cocktails being created in the 1920s came out of Europe, such as the Sidecar.  But I digress.

 

The French 75 later appeared in the hugely influential 1930 Savoy Cocktail book, which was what sent it on its way to immortalization in the classic cocktail canon.

 

The name is borrowed from a piece of French World War I artillery, the Canon de 75 modèle 1897 - or as it was affectionately known, the French 75 - which is considered by many to be the first modern artillery weapon.  The direct connection between the gun and libation as unclear, though one presumes is it because they bore some striking similarities: they worked fast and were particularly dangerous (I can profess to both being true, for the cocktail anyway).

Creating French 75 Variations

The French 75's recipe is more ripe for modification and adaptation than perhaps any other cocktail (the Gin Gimlet is stiff competition however). There are endless possibilities.  Use the proportions above as a formula and try one of these approaches to invent your own take on the French 75.  They all are very forgiving.

French 75s for a Crowd

When I’m preparing a large batch of drinks for a group, I might serve the French 75, or a variation on it, more often any other cocktail.  It’s easy and a phenomenal crowd-pleaser, particularly for a celebratory occasions.

 

You can either prepare it to serve individually or as one large batch, like in a punch bowl - instructions for both are below.  Whatever you do, wait to pour the Champagne right up until the drinks are being served. Everything else can be prepped ahead of time.  

 

Any of the suggested variations above can be applied to this recipe as well.

Makes 16-20 servings

  

  • 2 cups gin

  • 1 cup lemon juice

  • 1 ¼ cup simple syrup - or less/more to taste.

  • 2 bottles - Brut Champagne 0r dry sparkling wine

  • 1 - 1 ½ cups ice

To Serve as a Punch

Combine the gin, lemon, and simple syrup either in a punch bowl, preferably, over one large cube.  When guests begin to arrive, pop and pour in the Champagne.

Garnish with lemon wheels for a couple of long lemon peel spirals (this would be a good opportunity to use a channel knife).   Sparkle Fresh berries is a nice touch here too.

 

If preparing beforehand, the ingredients (minus the Champagne) can be combined and stored in the refrigerator.  When ready to serve, pour over the cube and add the bubbles.

 

For Individual Servings

Combine gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and ice in a pitcher.  This is your batch, keep it refrigerated until serving.   It’s ok if the ice cubes melt, they’re just there to supply dilution. 

 

When ready to serve, fill champagne flutes with about 3 ounces of the batch, or a little under halfway, and top with Champagne.  Garnished with lemon peels or lemons discs, and drop a berry of some kind into each glass if you like.

Change the Spirit - Everything works! Whiskey, rum, tequila, vodka, you name it.

 

Change the Sweetener -  Replace the simple syrup with a different syrup, liqueur or another natural sweetener like honey.  Cinnamon syrup makes a wonderfully festive cocktail for the holidays, particularly when using apple brandyin place of gin.   Liqueurs are also excellent, particularly fruity or floral ones.  But you can't substitute them in directly, because their sweetness level doesn't quite match simple syrup.  This the template I use when modifying a French 75 with a liqueur.  Start here, and then adjust if necessary to balance.  

 

French 75, plus your liqueur of choice - St. Germain, peach, and apricot liqueurs are all wonderful in this recipe, just to name a few.

  • 1 oz gin

  • ½ oz lemon juice

  • ½ oz liqueur

  • ¼ - ½ oz simple syrup

  • 3-4 oz chilled Brut Champagne or other dry sparkling wine.

  • lemon or orange peel for garnish

Prepare as above

Muddle in a fresh Ingredient - Muddling in just 1 strawberry per drink is mind-blowingly awesome.  Other great additions are raspberries, mint, basil, cucumbers, mangos, and a number of other fruits, herbs, and vegetables available at your local supermarket.  You can also try combining flavors, though keep it simple, two ingredients max is a good rule of thumb.

 

Add a Dash of Bitters or Bitter Liqueur - A dash of bitters or a ¼-½ ounce of bitter liqueur/amaro such as Aperol, Campari, Amaro Nonino or Cynar, can give the bright, crisp and refreshing qualities of the French 75 some deeper and more complex undertones.  Here’s my favorite example of this phenomenon at work from Phil Ward:

 

Bitter French

  • 1 oz gin

  • ½ oz lemon juice

  • ½ oz simple syrup

  • ¼ oz Campari

  • 3-4 oz chilled Brut Champagne or other dry sparkling wine.

  • lemon peel for garnish

Prepare as above

Or a Combination  - The Old Cuban, a delicious French 75 and Mojito hybrid from Audrey Saunders, is an example of several of these modifications at work at once.  Note: my recipe is a bit smaller than her original, which calls for 1 ½ oz aged rum.   The original recipe also calls for it to be served in a coupe/martini glass, which is fine, as is a flute.

 

Old Cuban

  • 1 ¼ oz aged rum

  • ½ oz lime juice

  • ¾ oz simple syrup

  • 6-8 mint leaves

  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

  • 2-3 oz chilled Brut Champagne or other dry sparkling wine.

  • mint leaf for garnish

 

Muddle mint leaves in simple syrup.

Proceed and prepare as above.

 
 
 
 

Sections

 

© 2019 socialhourcocktails.com  All Rights Reserved

tom@socialhourcocktails.com Brooklyn, NY

  • Instagram Social Icon
  • Pinterest Social Icon
  • YouTube Social  Icon