Though it might sound dainty, this deceptively puissant marriage of gin and bubbly is named after a giant gun used by the French in World War I. It was also a favorite of one of the previous century’s most celebrated macho men, Ernest Hemingway. Indeed, the French 75 shares with Papa Hemingway a well-earned reputation for depositing many a careless tippler on his butt. Not only are its origins contested (murky at best), but many purists cite early recipes where Cognac is the “original” spirit used and the drink is served over crushed ice rather than up (even what glass it is served in is debatable). Some believe it to be the only true classic cocktail invented in America during Prohibition. Others have pegged it as a Victorian-era fave. After doing extensive research, drinks historian David Wondrich concluded that the combination of gin and Champagne dates to the earliest mists of cocktail history, and that “whoever invented the French 75 didn’t really invent anything at all. All he or she did was give it a name.”
No matter its origins, the cocktail has risen above them all, earning a place as one of the most celebrated (though currently underrated) classic cocktails. Perfect at brunch or just before dinner or even after dinner, the spritzy mix is invigorating and palate-cleansing. It’s also dead easy to make: Simply shake gin and fresh lemon juice (be sure it is truly fresh) with ice, then strain into a Champagne flute and top with chilled sparkling wine. You don’t need to break the bank when it comes to the brand of sparkling you choose, but it should be something that you would happily sip on its own and it should be on the drier end of the flavor spectrum. When it comes to gin, only London Dry will do.
Mix It Up!
Recommended Gin: Beefeater, Tanqueray, Bombay London Dry, Plymouth and Martin Miller’s. For the bubbly, you can’t go wrong with Gruet Brut, Moet & Chandon Imperial Brut, or Parxet NV Cuvée 21 Brut.
For a fun but sophisticated cocktail party treat, try making a jiggly, jello-ified version of the French 75 with this recipe for French 75 Jello Shots.