The French 75 was the artillery weapon of choice for the Allied Forces during World War One. In fact, a young Harry S. Truman commanded a dozen French 75s as he led Battery D of the U.S. Army's 35th Division's 129th Field Artillery during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive on the War's Western Front. Before this turns into a history lesson, as my sauced-up relatives would say, enough history honey, more hooch, so let's get to it.
There is some dispute over the primary spirit used in the French 75 - the majority of recipes call for gin while a few call for brandy/Cognac. Being committed to the craft, we of course had to mix up both versions. Impressions below.
1.50 ounces gin or brandy/Cognac
0.75 ounces simple syrup
0.50 ounces fresh lemon juice
Brut sparkling wine/Champagne (important to use Brut here to keep the sweetness in check)
1 lemon peel for twist
- Chill a Champagne flute or wine glass.
- Place the gin or brandy/Cognac, simple syrup, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with some ice.
- Shake and strain the shaker mixture into the glass and top with sparkling wine/Champagne (I'd say you are going to pour ~2 ounces of champagne here).
- Squeeze the lemon twist over the drink and drop in.
We opted for a VSOP Cognac as that is what we had on hand. We also opted for a Champagne because what else would you use on Le Mans weekend?! Fun fact - today, spraying Champagne is a tradition on a motorsport victor's podium where the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers are celebrated. However, it was the legendary Dan Gurney who first sprayed Champagne on the podium, celebrating the 1st place finish of he and A. J. Foyt's Ford GT40 Mark IV in the 1967 Le Mans.
Returning to the hooch, I was once told by a wine merchant that when it comes to Champagne, forget about brands and simply buy the cheapest 'Grand Cru' Champagne you can find on the shelf. I have no idea how accurate or insightful that advice is as neither of us are Champagne enthusiasts, but to date, we have never had a disappointing example.
As for the two French 75 versions - we each slightly preferred the gin version to the Cognac version. The gin version was a bit less sweet, a bit more savory and as a result left you desiring a second one immediately after finishing. To use a breakfast metaphor, the Cognac version was like stuffed French Toast to the gin version's corned beef hash. Don't get me wrong, both versions are delicious, it just depends on what you are looking for from the cocktail - sweet or savory.