This is the time of year we’re all supposed to be reading about low-proof cocktails, right? Well, move over Spritzes, because this one is possibly my favorite.
I’ve talked about the French 75 in great detail over the past many years. But to be honest I’m writing about it now for a few reasons:
- I realized I never did a proper post on here about the drink.
- I’ve been getting into film photography (yes, real 35mm film) again lately and I wanted to share the above picture.
- I still see this one being served in flutes and I want to continue to evangelize about how wonderful this drink is when served over ice.
But first: just about every classic cocktail out there comes with a whole lot of mythology surrounding its origin. The Manhattan was supposedly created by Winston Churchill’s mother, for instance (it wasn’t). Jennings Cox, an American mining engineer, was reportedly the first person in Cuba to combine rum, lime, and sugar (he wasn’t). But I don’t know of many cocktails that come with more baggage than the poor French 75.
If you believe popular history, the French 75 was first concocted by English soldiers fighting in France during the First World War. These intrepid imbibers took the only raw ingredients they had on hand, allegedly, and combined gin, fresh lemon juice, sugar, and Champagne, and served the whole concoction in a 75 millimeter artillery shell. Is anyone buying this?
In 1919, Harry MacElhone published The ABC of Mixing Drinks, and inside he listed a recipe for a drink called a French 75, created by a bartender named “MacGarry” of Buck’s Club in London. The drink was identical to a Tom Collins (gin, lemon, sugar, soda) with one change: the substitution of Champagne for soda water.
Which brings us to the other, strange bit of mythology that you’ve no doubt encountered if you’ve ever been served a French 75 before: I say that MacGarry’s French 75 was identical to a Tom Collins with the exception of that bubbly bit, and I mean it: a French 75 is meant to be served on the rocks, just as a Collins would be.
Which is far cry from the odd concoction being served without ice in Champagne flutes and being passed around on trays at wedding receptions these days. I never understood that drink, with its odd bit of floating lemon peel, and chances are, neither did you. But do me a favor and try it like this and I think you’re going to see what a refreshing, low-proof cocktail the French 75 is.
Don’t believe me? Well, watch this video I shot a few years ago for Small Screen Network. And then try the recipe below.
French 75 Print Me
- 1 oz London dry gin
- 1 oz fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 oz 2:1 simple syrup
- 2 oz chilled Champagne or sparkling wine
- Combine all ingredients but Champagne in a cocktail shaker with ice.
- Shake until ingredients are combined and chilled, and add Champagne to shaker.
- Pour over fresh ice in a tall glass and garnish with a lemon peel.
Recipe printed courtesy of jeffreymorgenthaler.com
45 Replies to “French 75”
I’ve been reading through so many of your posts. There is so much interesting stuff. One thing I constantly think about is how to best measure carbonated ingredients, like the Champagne in this cocktail, without defizzing them.
I’m afraid it’ll lose too much of the carbonation if I first poured in into a jigger to measure it. But I don’t think I’d be able to free-pour it accurately either.
Thanks for everything,
If your Champagne is cold, and it should be – you’re not going to lose a ton of bubbles. You just don’t want to shake a cocktail with carbonated ingredients, ever. That’s why we add it at the end. Jigger away, you’ll be fine!
Hello, I have French 75 on menu for the last 10 years and I play around it a lot. Just wondering it must be quiet sour as you got dry Champagne in and that much lemon juice. I go for 20ml sugar to 15ml lemon and it taste super balance. Maybe try it that way and let me know what do you think. Funkybartender
Everyone is going to have a different opinion of what’s balanced, I say go with what you and your guests like best. But do keep in mind that this one is made with a 2:1 simple syrup, not a 1:1.
The absinthe-washed French 75 I had at the Bel Ami Lounge in Eugene around ’08-’09 was the first time I ever spent $10 on a cocktail. At that time (and that time in my life), it felt like quite the splurge, but all doubts were erased when I took my first sip and couldn’t stop smiling. I have no way of knowing if you were working there that night, but I still believe I have you to thank for that experience, and for showing me what it really means to get what you pay for.
Love this recipe and your Bourbon Renewal. They are providing a bit of afternoon cheer during the quarantine. Thank you!
I’m so glad! You’re very welcome!
Hi Jeffrey! Thanks for the article. And a gorgeous picture! I have one question: Why add the Champagne to the shaker, instead of straining the mix into the glass and topping it up with Champagne?
Thank you! Adding it to the shaker and pouring the whole lot gently into the glass will result in a more uniform drink. Pouring the Champagne directly on top will give you only Champagne on the top if the drink. But if you insist on doing it that way, just be sure to give it a quick stir before adding ice to the glass.
Gonna have a little fun with with a variation on this.
Clarifying the lemon juice first (just pectinase/coffee filter) and then charging the whole cocktail with CO2 for extra fizz before putting it in the Collins glass. Completely unnecessary, I know… but I have the stuff for it, and I’m bored as hell right now, haha.
I’m all in on the Smash A Flute day. Can we add the martini glass too?
Absolutely not! Get out of here!
This recipe is making my quarantined Mother’s Day much more enjoyable since I can’t spend it at an expensive brunch in the Quarter with kids who don’t really want to be there anyway.
I’m so happy to hear that, Laura!
I have enjoyed quite a few of these French 75s with your specs during the quarantine. I find them to be much more refreshing! Cheers!
Glad to hear it, Kristen!
Saw you on David Lebovitz’s insta live and had to have this. But I had to get a shaker first … in the middle of a pandemic. Used the sparkling Riesling in the fridge. It was AMAZING!
Aw I’m so glad you liked it!
The bar at the Bellevue (WA) Marriott serves a French 75 on the rocks, and it beats every other “fluted” 75 I’ve had everywhere else.
I’ll have to check that out! Thanks!
Can it be argued that the drink was not created by soldiers of the first World
War, but perhaps made popular by them? And the idea of serving it up due to the lack of ice available to the troops?
Possibly, but that legend smacks more of fantasy than actual practice to me.
Keep your eyes peeled for a baby Rollei. Great fun!
I hope you try shooting 120 film too. Medium format is a lot of fun.
I’m certainly hoping to work up to it one day!
Jeffrey! FINALLY! When I don’t have my notebook with me, it was a PITA to find the recipe on the youtube video. Thank you so, so much! I wound up creating a digital index of my favorite recipes from my notebook on Google Keep, so I wouldn’t have to rummage for this recipe when out and about. This is one of my all time favorites, truly. Perfect in the morning, brunch, dinner, summer, winter, holidays – any time. The only thing I do in addition is microwave my lemon for 15-20 seconds prior to juicing… the lemon essential oil from the peel is extracted more efficiently when warmed and further elevates this already great recipe (especially when served with ice in the perfect Tom Collins glass). Hope you’re enjoying film photos again. So much fun to be had, especially if you can process in a dark room. All the best!
Aww not that I am anyone of notoriety but this drink makes you a hero to me!
Do you have more history on the gin vs. cognac debate?
I don’t but I’d recommend this article!
So a little off topic, but I had a question about the large-batch carbonated French 75 and thought others might too. Have you tweaked the recipe since you first published it? Do you still recommend the higher sugar ratios (vs the recipe above) because of the extra carbonation – and added 10oz water even with serving over ice? Making a bunch for a party and want to get it as perfect as I can. Thanks!
The cocktail photo is gorgeous. Keep it up!
I was at a restaurant in Charlottesville a few weekends ago. There it was… FRENCH 75 on the menu… I did get that look when I asked if they could serve it on the rocks in a highball glass…
That’s awesome! How was it?
thanks to you years ago, i’ve become a collins style and ice convert myself (i love pairing 75s with steak frites). i’ve been fooling around with using pink peppercorn gin (sourced from france) and have discovered that its makes an absolutely lovely 75 with a slight vanilla-ly finish.
I’m glad you’re doubling down on this. Happened to read this other review recently, thoughts?
Yeah? How did they serve it?
Recently ordered a French 75 at a local place here in Orlando, Florida and wouldn’t you know it, everyone with earshot and eyesight of the bartender ordered one
I agree that the drink stays refreshingly cold when served on the rocks. Plus, a Collins glass is less likely to be knocked over.
It looks like you’re using small 1″ cubes or cobbled ice. Which do you recommend?
Not really sure what ‘cobbled’ ice is, but this is just regular 3/4″ cubes out of the ice machine at work.
I’ve gotten funny looks over the years ordering a French 75 on the rocks, but man they are so much better! La Crepe Nanou in New Orleans does a great one, usually served in a wine glass on the rocks.
I feel like it’s becoming more common these days to see it served on the rocks, but I will continue my mission to convert them all!
This drink is indeed misunderstood and I have finally come to the conclusion that it is what one makes of it. I enjoy the gin version over ice certainly; it is mighty refreshing and light, but the unmistakable kick of gin is a treat.
We have made one behind the bar where I work with a grapefruit vodka as a base, as well. Not traditional, not expected, but pretty damn delicious!
Too, I will never be on vacation in NOLA without having at least two stops into Arnaud’s French 75 bar and drinking Chris Hanna’s cognac version served up in a tulip glass. (I will also never pass up the opportunity to have a Brandy Crusta in very same bar. Ohhhh my.)
And for the record? Flute glasses? I say we have an international smash day and make every single one of them disappear. The day I drink a glass of yeasty lovely Veuve and don’t want to begin every sip with a deep sniff is the day you can bury me in my own backyard. And that goes double for everything one might put in a flute. If I want to feel like I’m held hostage at a bridal shower, I’ll eat a cucumber sandwich and wear a flower print sundress. But my bubbles? Wide open wine glass, please.
I love the “Smash a Champagne Flute Day” idea, Mary! I use a Bordeaux glass for everything myself.