Two facts about the French 75: the “origin story” of the cocktail has gotten a bit muddled over time, and its namesake is an artillery gun from WWI. I can’t think of two BETTER facts to endorse a cocktail; it’s so great that no one can really remember where it came from, and it’s so powerful that the French 75mm Field Gun moniker withstands the test of time.
It sounded like a great drink to serve this past weekend when my in-laws came to visit! 🙂
Some sources date the story to 1915 when a Franco American fighter pilot in Paris, Raoul Lufbery, wanted his champagne to be more powerful. He added cognac to his bubbly and the drink was born.
Others keep the the story in Paris, but credit a bartender at Harry’s New York Bar for creating a drink with a combination considered so powerful that it feels like being shelled by a quick firing canon. There’s even evidence that Charles Dickens served a gin-based version of the cocktail to his guests in the 1860’s. No matter its origin, the cocktail is delicious.
Ernest Hemingway and his gang of ex-pats in the Lost Generation, were said to drink them at Harry’s in Paris. By the 1930’s, celebrities and aristocrats alike were sipping the gin-based cocktail at the famous Stork Club in Manhattan. It even gets ordered at Rick’s Cafe in the movie Casablanca.
I imagine Hemingway, sitting alongside the Boulevard du Montparnasse, drinking a French 75 while Fitzgerald read him The Great Gatsby. I can see Grace Kelly setting her flute to the side while she leaned in to confirm, and break the news, of her engagement to Prince Ranier at the Stork Club. Perhaps even the Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson, sipped the cocktail from a coupe during their frequent visits to Harry’s in Paris. It’s an elegant drink that appeals to everyone. It’s a classic.
Easy to serve to guests because you can make a pitcher of it ahead of time, the French 75 requires only a few ingredients and minimal prep time. This was another reason I chose it to serve this past weekend to Matt’s parents; they were arriving around 5 on a Friday and I had worked and attended a sports banquet. I needed something nice, but easy.
A few lemons, sugar, and water combine to make the simple syrup; added to gin and topped off with champagne, this cocktail is simple to create and impressive to serve.
There are many variations of the recipe, but here is the one that works best for me ( I adapted it from Danielle Rollins’s recipe in Soiree):
Ingredients to Make a Pitcher of French 75s (serves 6-8):
- 12 oz. of gin (my favorites are New Amsterdam and Tanqueray)
- 1 bottle of chilled champagne or spumante (I like spumante because it is less dry, Verdi is inexpensive)
- 8 oz. of freshly squeezed lemon juice (6-8 lemons)
- 8 oz. of lemon simple syrup (recipe below)
- 6-8 chilled champagne coupes or flutes
Combine the gin, lemon juice, and lemon syrup in a pitcher. Add crushed ice to your chilled glasses and fill them halfway up with your gin-lemon mixture. Top off each glass with champagne and serve.
Garnish the glass as you wish. I’ve seen it served in flutes, coupes, and martini glasses.
My favorite part is you can make your lemon syrup and gin-based mixture ahead of time, which makes this a great cocktail for parties.
To make the lemon syrup:
Bring to a boil a cup of water combined with a cup of sugar. Boil until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally, remove from the heat and add the zest from 3-4 lemons. Allow this to cool. You can even store it in the fridge for a week or two!