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

15 Replies to “French 75”

  • Mary DeBattista says:

    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.

  • Kate Argote says:

    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 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?

  • Michael Blosser says:

    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

  • Yeah? How did they serve it?

  • Daniel Goodwin says:

    I’m glad you’re doubling down on this. Happened to read this other review recently, thoughts?
    https://punchdrink.com/articles/ultimate-best-french-75-cocktail-recipe/

  • mantunesofnewark says:

    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 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…

    Worth it!

    HM

  • Matt says:

    The cocktail photo is gorgeous. Keep it up!

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