Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The French 75 Cocktail

French 75 Cocktails with lemon twist garnishes, in champagne flute and tall glass

This gin, champagne, and lemon juice combo packs firepower

There aren’t many cocktails named after an artillery piece. In fact, the French 75 is the only one I know of.

More on its history later. But all you really need to know is this: The French 75 Cocktail is a delightfully perky combo of gin and fresh lemon juice, topped off with bubbly. Its cool flavor is fragrant, fresh, and fizzy—making it a perfect choice before dinner. I particularly like to drink the French 75 around the winter holidays, when I’m looking for something festive.

So for your next holiday dinner party, pop a bottle of bubbly and mix a round of these high-caliber beauties. And start the evening with a bang.




Recipe: The French 75 Cocktail

You have a choice of glassware when serving this drink. You can use an ice-filled Collins (tall) glass. Or skip the ice and use a champagne flute. The first is traditional, but the latter is much more popular these days.

You can use real French champagne for this drink, but why? A good quality sparkling wine (preferably a brut or Spanish cava) works fine, and is much less expensive.  See Notes for a discussion on choices.

This cocktail dates from World War I (1915, to be precise). But the recipe first appeared in print in Harry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book, published in 1930 (the Savoy was—and still is—a luxury hotel in London). You can vary the amount of gin or sparkling wine in this drink, but one ratio should remain constant: use 1 part lemon juice for every 2 parts of gin. More in the Notes.

This recipe serves one, and takes about 5 minutes to make.

Ingredients
  • 1½ ounces gin (use dry “London” gin; see Notes)
  • ¾ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Simple Syrup (may substitute powdered sugar or table sugar) 
  • 4 to 5 ounces sparkling wine 
  • lemon twist or wedge for garnish (optional)
Procedure
  1. Add the gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice. Shake vigorously until well chilled (20 seconds or so).
  2. Strain into a Collins (tall) glass filled with cracked ice (may substitute ice cubes). Fill the glass with sparkling wine, add garnish, and serve.
  3. OR if you prefer to serve this drink in a champagne flute, strain the contents of the cocktail shaker into the flute. Add the sparkling wine, garnish, and serve.
French 75 Cocktails with lemon twist garnishes, in champagne flute and tall glass

Notes
  • The amount of gin used in this drink can vary depending on the recipe you use. I’ve seen versions that specify as little as ½ ounce of gin—or as much as 2 ounces. You definitely want to taste the gin in this drink, IMO, so 1½ to 2 ounces is what I recommend. But with this amount of gin, the drink is pretty hefty. It’s a smooth sipper, too—so just remember that it contains quite a bit of alcohol.
  • Do make sure to use half as much lemon juice as gin. The proper ratio of gin to lemon juice should remain 2 to 1.
  • When a cocktail recipe specifies gin, it’s usually understood these days to mean London dry gin—which is also the type most commonly found in liquor stores. Any good name-brand dry gin will work well in this drink.
  • In addition to London dry, you might see Dutch or Belgian gin (sometimes called jenever or genever), which is made from malt rather than grain. There’s also Old Tom Gin, which has a sweeter taste. Should you happen to see any of these in your local shop (unlikely, because they’re not common), don’t buy them to make this drink; their flavor is all wrong.
  • Some people claim that cognac—instead of gin—is the proper spirit to use in this drink (because gin isn’t normally associated with France). But if you replace the gin with cognac, most people would call the drink a King’s Peg (though many recipes for the King’s Peg omit the lemon juice and simple syrup).
  • Under European law, only sparkling wine that comes from the Champagne region of northeastern France (and is bottled under certain conditions) can be sold as “champagne.” 
  • Champagne gets its characteristic bubbles because it undergoes secondary fermentation in the bottle—a technique called “méthode champenoise.” By European law, that wording can now be used only to describe sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region. Other sparkling wines made in the same way must use the nomenclature “méthode traditionnelle” or “fermented in the bottle,” or the equivalent.
  • It’s difficult to find true champagne in the US for under $30 a bottle. But most of the decent sparkling wines made in the US (and all the cavas made in Spain) are fermented in the bottle. Many of these sparklers rival champagne in flavor.
  • For this drink, Korbel brut is fine, and that’s usually priced in the lower teens. Domaine Ste.-Michelle is another decent (and modestly priced) domestic brand.
  • Spanish cavas can be even less expensive, often selling in the $8 to $9 range. Cordorniu and Freixenet are two brands that can be found in most grocery stores.
  • My favorite un-champagne in this price range is Saint-Hilaire (the full name is Saint-Hilaire, Blanquette de Limoux), which is made in a Benedictine Abbey in southwestern France. This wine actually predates champagne and is in fact France’s oldest sparkling wine. Thomas Jefferson loved it, and served it to guests when he was president. It typically costs $13 or $14 in the US (though friends tell us it can be had for $10 at Costco).
  • Lots of options here. My advice? Just drop by your local wine store and tell them you need “champagne” for cocktails, then ask what they recommend in the $10-or-so range. They’ll usually have several good suggestions.
French 75 Cocktai with lemon twist garnish in tall glass with ice

An Explosive Drink

“Mmmm,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, sipping appreciatively. “Great drink! And it was named after an artillery piece?”

“Yup,” I said. “Sounds weird, I know, but its inspiration was the Matériel de 75mm Mle 1897—a 75-millimeter field gun known as the French 75. Or if you’re a French speaker, the Soixante-Quinze.”

“Which translates into English literally as 60-15,” said Mrs K R. “That must have been some gun!”

“A big one,” I said. “At any rate, it inspired Harry MacElhone to create this drink. MacElhone was working at the New York Bar in Paris when inspiration hit. He later became part owner of the place, and renamed it Harry’s New York Bar.”

 “Say, Hemingway used to drink there, didn’t he?” asked Mrs K R.

“Indeed,” I said. “Though I think Hemingway used to drink everywhere. The bar still exists, by the way. We should visit it next time we’re in Paris.”

“Ah, Paris,” sighed Mrs K R, taking another sip.

“It would be great to go back again,” I said.

“Well, Christmas is coming,” Mrs K R pointed out helpfully. “I’ll bet you haven’t gotten me a gift yet. And I do speak French, you know.”

This might be an expensive drink.

You may also enjoy reading about:
Simple Syrup
Seelbach Cocktail
Classic Champagne Cocktail
Bellini Cocktail
Mimosa Cocktail
Cocktail Basics
Or check out the index for more

103 comments:

  1. I've never heard of any cocktails named after an artillery piece either John. Although, isn't there a cocktail named The Artillery?

    It seems Hemingway certainly did make his rounds. Lucky guy:) I'm liking this drink a lot! If you keep posting all these bubbly drinks, I may just be toasted before the new year begins, lol...

    Thanks for sharing, John...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Louise, forgot about the Artillery cocktail! Although I'm not sure where it got its name. Basically that's just a Martinez cocktail, as I recall (a martini made with sweet vermouth rather than dry; which is actually what the first martini was). Hope you don't get toasted before the New Year! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  2. Hi,
    I just dropped by to say hi. I saw a comment you posted on CoffeeandCrumpets and I liked the name of your blog, but I see that maybe you are not a guitar player, your riffs are on the food.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mireya, welcome! Yup, this blog riffs on all things kitchen (food and drink) related. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  3. I haven't had a gin drink since becoming quite sick off too many in my 20's. That is longer than I care to admit so you know it must have been bad. Lately though I have had the desire to give it one more chance. I think this should be the cocktail that I try. Ok, that's it. Christmas Eve. I'll let you know how it goes. P.S. nobody photographs a drink like you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Karen, I think everyone got sick on gin when they were younger. This time don't buy the bottle that has the white label with GIN written on it in big black letters. ;-) Thanks for your kind words, and comment.

      Delete
  4. This looks like my kind of cocktail - I'm a fan of both gin and champagne (even sparkling!) This looks very festive and I love how it's not a sweet cocktail seeing it has the lemon juice. Is Mrs Riffs wanting a trip to France? You'll need deep pockets this Christmas! xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Charlie, Mrs K R is always wanting a trip to France! As, in truth, am I. This is a wonderful drink - really worth trying. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  5. What a stunning picture! I am all over champagne and champagne cocktails. Something about the bubbly that I adore! So, Mrs. K speaks French, eh? Ooh-la-la!! I'm bookmarking this for my hubby to make for me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Laura, Mrs K R does indeed speak French. Handy when we travel. ;-) And you'll enjoy having hubby make this for you! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  6. Very elegant drink! And I love the conversation between you and Mrs. Kitchen Riffs - like you two are in a story. Looks like refreshing good combination!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Nami, it's a great drink. Worth sipping on. Those conversations are fun to write! And pretty true to life, in a general way. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  7. excellent sip and beautifully photographed as always...we love to learn such pieces of interesting info on food and drink you provide...thanks so much for the inspiration :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kumar, isn't this a nice drink? Really worth trying. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  8. Hi John , What a lovely drink , never had or heard of it , but is going to be fun sipping it . Thanks for sharing :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Nee, this is a nice drink - I love the lemon in it. Goes well with bubbly! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  9. This is our standard cocktail for New Years Eve and I've never popped for champagne. Cava or Prosecco work well and I've found some at Costco for less than $10/bottle. When I'm mixing a sparkling wine with other components I can never see the point of being spendy. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Barb, I've actually had this with champagne, and although nice, I'm with you on using something less expensive. Cava is really good in this - I haven't tried Prosecco. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  10. OK, that's it... I'm coming to your place for New Year's Eve celebrations... this sounds fantastic, I have never heard of such a drink. Incidentally, speaking of artillery... did you know that I'm a crack sniper on Call of Duty 2?!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Lizzy, you're be quite welcome! Crack sniper on Call of Duty 2, eh? Sounds impressive! I haven't played many computer games lately - last one is Civ. IV, which is fun (but it takes awhile). Anyway, thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  11. This is so pretty, John! I never get tired admiring your drink photos. You always take professional quality photos!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Denise, isn't this a nice drink? Thanks for those very kind words, and for taking time to comment.

      Delete
  12. Oh, man, does this look like a cocktail I could fall in love with! And I love Mrs. KR's logic...reminds me of mine ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Liz, isn't this a really nice looking drink? I love it! Yeah, Mrs K R's logic is interesting, isn't it? ;-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  13. You know what I love about your posts - you always offer a wealth of knowledge to go with your recipes. They're so informative.

    This drink sounds like something I'd love. I will have to try ordering one of these the next time I'm out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi VIcki, the recipes are fun and all, but it's really the other stuff I'm more interested in! This is a good drink. If you order it out, make sure it's at some place where they'll use real lemon juice rather than "sour mix" - that stuff is awful! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  14. This IS the perfect drink to bring in the New Year! It's pretty, with the lemon juice, I'm sure it taste refreshing - then you've got the gin and bubbly - perfect! I've never had anything like this, but I'm going to have to change that in about 20 days! Thanks John!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi MJ, this is a goodie! Of course I like all of the drinks I write about (I wouldn't write about them if I didn't), but this is one of my personal favorites. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  15. Replies
    1. Hi Sprinkles and Sauce, it is, it is! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  16. Hmm I think I would prefer a champagne flute :-) Flawless photos, as usual!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kristi, that's actually how we tend to drink it most often, although I also like the tall glass. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  17. Absolutely gorgeous looking cocktail John! And you know I love a gin based cocktail!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Amanda, this is a good one - I think you'd like. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  18. I saw this on my FB newsfeed and it looked gorgeous! I scrolled back up to admire it. I'd say I'll make it without the alcohol but then it would just be fizzy lemonade ;) Btw, did you ever see the movie Midnight in Paris? I loved it. Great story with Hemingway and Fitzgerald.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Nazneen, I did see Midnight in Paris! Really fun movie. You could make a very lightly sweetened lemonade (you want to keep it on the sour side) with seltzer water for a similar looking drink. The taste would be totally different, of course, but the drink would be pretty good. And look pretty. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  19. Go, Mrs. KR! I think a little pressure just might work! Great drink that I will have to try as I have some prosecco bottles that need a home. Those ice cubes look like you shot bullet holes in them. Quite impressive photos! Thanks John-for another good one!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Abbe, I doubt if we'll be going to Paris soon, but who knows? This is a great drink - hope you enjoy! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  20. Just out of curiosity, if you used a less dry bubbly, like Prosecco or even a Moscato, would you omit the simple syrup? Also, would Hendricks be okay? Around here we really don't like a gin tasting gin. Sorry.

    I, too, enjoy your "discussions." Always a few nuggets of info I didn't know.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi More Cowbell, you could omit the simple syrup but it'd be a bit sour. Nice thing about simple syrup, though, is you can make it the way you think it'd work (and Moscato is sweet enough that you're right that simple syrup might not be needed; IMO you'd need a bit with Prosecco), and just add a squirt or two to the glass and stir it in if you find you need more sweetener. And simple syrup is super easy to make, too. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
    2. Oh, and I forgot to add that Hendricks would work fine.

      Delete
  21. My husband is a big gin drinker. He would be all over this one. Thanks for the recipe John. Have a great rest of the week!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anne, this is a great cocktail for gin drinkers! It's really lovely - kind of a Tom Collins with gin! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  22. Lovely pictures and cocktail. Unfortunately, I'm not a fan of Champagne...

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Rosa, if you don't like Champagne, this one definitely isn't for you! Just add sparkling water and a bit more lemon and you'll have a Tom Collins! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  23. Expensive drink but I'm sure she deserves a drink at Harry's. :)

    I was wondering what fancy drink I could serve on Saturday night while we watch the Christmas boat parade out back - now I know!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Maureen, we'll definitely be visiting Harry's at some point! ;-) This would be perfect for the Christmas boat parade! Festive, and it takes a bit of time to drink so you're not constantly refreshing beverages. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  24. Fantastic idea for using gin! Why I haven't thought of or tried this combination in the past is beyond me, perhaps this weekend! Thanks so much for the post and inspiration.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Dan, it's a great combo! Worth trying. And this weekend would be an excellent opportunity! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  25. I love gin so I know this would go down a treat!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Caroline, if you like gin, this one is a delight! Definitely a good drink. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  26. Beautiful pictures! I had my first French 75 this past summer and it was delicious!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Alyssa, isn't this a super drink? One of my faves! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  27. The French 75 is a great drink to serve at parties...it sparkles, it simple and even a lot of people who swear they don't like gin will like this one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Pamela, I agree that this is the gin drink for gin haters! Totally delish. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  28. I think these would make a wonderful New Year's cocktail. Love the twist of lemon peel!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Laura, this would be a terrific drink for New Year's. Or any time. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  29. As I started reading this post, it made me laugh! A cocktail named after an artillery piece? After a French artillery piece, of all things? I think I like it then! :) Pinned!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Julia, it is a bit odd, isn't it? But the French 75 artillery piece was a big step forward in artillery. Or so I've read. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  30. This is one of my favorite holiday cocktails. But anything with bubbles always puts you in the right mood at this time of year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Carolyn, I'll never turn down bubbles! This really is a fun drink - perfect for holidays. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  31. How interesting John, a drink named after an artillery piece! Though no matter what the name is, the drink looks subime. The clicks!! Just too good, and just right with mood for the holidays!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Minnie, it is odd how this drink came to be named, isn't it? But sublime is exactly what this drink is. Thanks for the kind words, and for taking time to comment.

      Delete
  32. that drink looks so pretty although I've never heard of the french 75. looks strong, but good! :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Honey, this one does have a bit of booze in it, although it's awfully good. Definitely a winner! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  33. You're becoming my go to source for interesting cocktails, John! I love learning about new drinks and you've come up with so many classic ones. I'm not a huge gin drinker, but this one sounds fantastic. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi BIll, it's a truly nice drink - just an excellent combo, IMO. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  34. I am working on my drinks menu for Christmas at the moment. This sounds potent and very delicious!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Julie, this would be a good addition! Have one coming up next week that would be ideal as well. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  35. I found your blog through Litchen Butterfly. I like what I see and I just subscribed. Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi platanosmangoes, welcome! Happy you like it here, and thanks for commenting.

      Delete
  36. Love the reach history behind this drink. My wife loves bubbly cocktails and I am afraid she'll get addicted to French 75 once I start making it! I'll need get a bottle of gin this weekend. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Yi, you definitely should get some gin and try this - such a nice drink. Just don't tell your wife about Harry's Bar to make sure the two of you don't get the urge to visit Paris! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  37. Remind me to suggest this to my husband as a Christmas gift - the trip, rather than the drink!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Beth, always happy to give you gift ideas. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  38. This looks so refreshing and simple to make, John! Totally my taste for holiday toasting. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Georgia, isn't this nice? Simple and tasty - wonderful combo! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  39. Bubbly, gin and lemon juice - I can cope with that. Funny about the origin of the name.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Suzanne, isn't the name odd? Lovely drink, though! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  40. Wow, John! They look like million dollar cocktails! I don't drink alcohol but looks very tempting. The photos are amazing, too. Great job!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Holly, it's really a super cocktail! Thanks for those kind words, and for taking time to comment.

      Delete
  41. Gin and I still aren't on speaking terms, John, I'm sorry to say. Even so, your photos sure do make this cocktail look appealing. I wonder if Eve felt this way when she looked at the apple. :) I may not like the cocktail but I can appreciate a well-written post. Nicely done, John.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi John, if you still aren't on speaking terms with gin, I doubt if you ever will be. Too bad,because it has its virtues, though I know you doubt that.;-) Thanks for those very nice sentiments, and of course for taking time to comment.

      Delete
  42. I love gin and tonics with lots and lots of extra limes so I know this would be perfect for me with the lemon juice and sparkling bubblies. A perfectly refreshing way to give to toast to the holidays. A fab drink in one hand and one of those chewy jam thumb print cookies in the other and I would be quite the happy camper. Wishing you and Mrs. Riff the best. Take care, BAM

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Bam, this cocktail and those cookies makes for a wonderful combo. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  43. Ah, splurge and get Mrs. KR that expensive drink...What could be better than Paris at Christmas?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Debra, lol, we're tempted! But probably another year. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  44. Such a pretty and elegant cocktail! And, a trip to Paris sounds like an excellent Christmas gift!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Lisa, isn't this nice? And we definitely do need to plan a trip to Paris! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  45. "In addition to London dry, you might see Dutch or Belgian gin (sometimes called jenever or genever), which is made from malt rather than grain. There’s also Old Tom Gin, which has a sweeter taste."

    You know your gins! GREG

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Greg, isn't the whole world of spirits fascinating? So much to learn! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  46. Beautiful cocktail :) I love the flavors..
    Gorgeous photography

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sowmya, isn't this nice? The flavor is wonderful! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  47. You've has such lovely cocktails over here as of late! I love this one: i've never had a French 75, but i've been toying with it as my holiday, "the guests are here" drink this year. It looks so beautiful, and i agree with your sentiment on champagne for cocktails: when you mix it with other things, you never need to blow the budget on it. World Market, also, has a pretty solid (although small, larger this time of year i think) selection of perfectly decent, mix-worthy champagne as well.
    This also reminded me that Bobby Flay does a really delicious "Kentucky 95" that's a play on this version, using Maker's Mark, orange and lemon juices, simple syrup, and champagne. A nice one for the bourbon-philes. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Shannon, there are all sorts of takes on the French 75, and most of them pretty good. How could they not be, with champagne? ;-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  48. You do make the best cocktails and no one photographs them like you. Drinking two of these might lead to buying tickets to Paris. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Karen, these are pretty hefty drinks, so two is quite enough. But who can resist tickets to Paris? ;-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  49. yey! drink to make, kind of a lady drink but stronger ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Marta, it does look a bit like a lady's drink, doesn't it? Trust me, though, men and women both like this once they try it! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  50. This drink sounds great. Sounds like it would be refreshing with the lemon in it. I love your pictures, as always they are beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Dawn, isn't this a fun drink? Thanks for the kind words, and for taking time to comment.

      Delete
  51. John, your photos are just stunning! And you've captured one of my very favorite cocktails beautifully here. Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Hannah, I like this one a lot, too. Thanks for those kind words, and for taking time to comment.

      Delete