French 75

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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:

  1. I realized I never did a proper post on here about the drink.
  2. I’ve been getting into film photography (yes, real 35mm film) again lately and I wanted to share the above picture.
  3. 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
  1. Combine all ingredients but Champagne in a cocktail shaker with ice.
  2. Shake until ingredients are combined and chilled, and add Champagne to shaker.
  3. Pour over fresh ice in a tall glass and garnish with a lemon peel.

Recipe printed courtesy of jeffreymorgenthaler.com

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