The French 75, or Materiel de 75mm Mle 1897, was a revolutionary military device -- it didn't require realignment after being fired, meaning it could fire more quickly than other guns. The gun was a staple of the French Army during World War I. We aren't sure whose wise idea it was to name a tasty cocktail after a gun whose reputation was based on rapid fire, but we suggest that you resist the inner spirit of the French 75 and reload your glasses at a much slower pace.
There are countless French 75 cocktail origin stories. According to one, the cocktail was created by WWI soldiers stuck in a trench with some bottles of champagne and either cognac or gin (depending upon which story you're reading). We've heard this story frequently over the past few years. But mustard gas is not the best garnish for cocktails, and booze, champagne, lemons and sugar were not staples of the war's disease-stricken trenches. It's unlikely, at best.
A French 75 recipe was first published in 1930 in the Savoy Cocktail Book, a drinks bible of sorts created by Harry Craddock, who managed the bar at the Savoy Hotel in London. His recipe calls for the cocktail to be made with gin and served over ice. Prepared this way, the French 75 is nothing more than a Collins made with champagne instead of soda water. This is why the French 75 likely used gin initially, though it also works quite well with cognac and other spirits. The cocktail's likeliest origin story is that a bartender at some point decided to exchange one fizzy beverage for another.
Who this person was, who knows? But the drink is outstanding and a must-try for anyone interested in cocktails. The French 75 owes most of its popularity to the Stork Club in New York, but residents of the Big Easy are also French 75 advocates, especially at brunch. Most who learned to love French 75s in New Orleans will tell you the drink's made with cognac, not gin.
Our recipe, after the jump.
Shake the gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup with ice and strain into a champagne flute. Top with champagne and garnish with a lemon twist.
1. If you've never had a French 75, add the champagne slowly and taste until you get the ratio that is right for you. Some enjoy this cocktail more concentrated and with less champagne, while others add quite a bit. We usually add about three ounces. 2. Use champagne or other sparkling wine that is fairly dry in order to balance out the sweetness in the cocktail.
With spring right around the corner, it is time to transition from darker spirits and cocktails to whiter ones that will make you feel refreshed after an unusually cold Houston winter. So load up on the French 75 essentials from our recipe; in no time, you'll be firing them off again and again.