The bubbly topper in a French 75 is a gift and a curse. The fizz elevates the flavors and highlights the balance (or lack thereof) of the gin, citrus and sweetener. Pick a quality gin that works in the cocktail, and the sparkling wine is your best friend, helping the gin’s botanical flavors bloom. Pick the wrong bottle, and you get an overly dry, too tart or dull cocktail that just doesn’t work. Here, the best gin bottles to create a stunning French 75 every time.
Like many classic gin cocktails, the French 75 was designed with juniper-forward London Dry gin in mind. Classic Beefeater never fails because it can stand its ground in cocktails with hearty flavors of juniper and bright lemon zest. These notes match perfectly with the sweet-sour flavor of the French 75, and the drying bubbly on top helps the juniper and other botanicals—like a touch of licorice—bubble up through the drink. This is an unimpeachable rendition of a classic.
As the contemporary gin in Tanqueray’s lineup, Tanqueray Ten is a bit quieter on the juniper than the flagship bottling but still offers a reliable profile for a classic drink. Tanqueray Ten adds several botanicals to its essential London Dry formula, in particular grapefruit, orange and chamomile. These flavors round out the lemony flavor of the French 75, keeping the drink light but adding a subtle complexity.
Although technically a type of London Dry, Plymouth has a unique flavor that makes it excellent for juniper-averse gin drinkers. Sipped straight, Plymouth has clear citrus and herbal spice notes that far outweigh the juniper, but it’s the gin’s texture that really elevates a cocktail like the French 75. Soft and velvety, it adds a round mouthfeel to the dry drink, making it especially easy to sip. Be sure to chill your sparkling wine really well to take full advantage of the silky texture.
The touch of all-natural honey in Barr Hill’s Old Tom expression brings a burst of energy to the French 75, as if you swapped the plain old simple syrup for a lush honey syrup. Both sweet and spicy sides of ginger spiral out of the glass like a flavorful vortex, along with honey and earl grey tea, which become bright and buoyant with the help of the cocktail’s citrus.
The structure of the French 75 usually works to enhance the underlying notes of the gin base, strengthening the tart citrus, sweet sugar and dry botanicals found in most expressions of the spirit. But you can also take a left turn, choosing a completely different type of gin to counter the lemon juice and fruity, floral flavors of the sparkling wine. As we found when we first tried Nikka Coffey Gin in a Gin and Tonic, carbonation releases the unique notes of the Japanese spirit, including yuzu, cherry blossom, peppercorn and kombu. In a French 75, the gin creates a cocktail that’s equally floral, tart and spiced.
One of our favorite new gins of 2017, Copperwing tastes like candied gin. Juniper is there, with supporting players like peach and white pepper, but the gin has a velvety mouthfeel and a sweet creaminess to it. Topped with citrus and sparkling wine, the gin really shines in a French 75, making the new bottling an obvious addition to your permanent bar roster if you like the classic bubbly cocktail on occasion.