It was created by bartender Harry MacElhone during the First World War in what is now Harry’s New York Bar in Paris.
In the golden twenties, the French 75 was particularly popular in the United States. It reached its peak by being serving in the hip and popular Stork Club in New York. Back then, the stars and starlets like Hemingway, Chaplin, the Kennedys, Sinatra and Monroe met in this bar.
This cocktail is often referred to as soixante quinze, the French word for 75.
Named after a Canon
As glamorous as the French 75 is, there is something warlike about it. It was named after the French 75 millimetre canon M1897, which became an important pillar of French field artillery in the First World War.
The strong inebriating effects of the French 75 were compared to the penetrating power of the 75 mm gun of the French army. The drink obviously has similar properties: it tastes very light and fresh, but also has a certain (alcoholic) stiffness.
The cocktail first appeared in writing in 1922 as The 75 in Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails, by Harry MacElhone, and in the same year in Robert Vermeire’s book Cocktails: How to Mix Them.
However, these recipes differ from the French 75 known today. While MacElhone’s recipe used calvados, gin, grenadine, and absinthe, Vermeire added lemon juice. The famous French 75 recipe was first mentioned in 1927 in “Here’s How” by Judge Jr.
Originally prepared with gin and calvados or brandy as well as grenadine or absinthe. Over the years the somewhat lighter recipe prevailed, in which champagne replaced brandy, and the absinthe was replaced by lemon juice.
French 75 without Champagne?
A common question with champagne cocktails is does it have to be champagne?
Even if many alternatives cannot match the original champagne, these differences are less clear in a cocktail. We think that you can definitely replace the champagne with another sparkling wine that does not come from Champagne region.
However, the bubbly should also be an elegant, dry candidate with a fine perlage. Various Californian sparkling wines, French crémants or spumanti from Trentino in Northern Italy or even the German sparkling wines serve as suitable replacements.
Who’s up for a California 75 or Italian 75 or a German 75?
Another strong cocktail: Learn to make the beloved Mai Tai
- 1 oz gin adjust according to taste
- ⅔ oz lemon juice freshly squeezed only
- ⅓ oz sugar syrup
- 3 oz champagne to top up. Can be replaced with a dry and full bodied sparkling wine
- Chill the champagne and the champagne glass well
- Put the gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup and ice cubes in a shaker and shake well for 15 seconds
- If you used ice to cool the glass, then strain the ice and pour the contents of the shaker into the glass
- Top up with champagne and stir briefly
- Garnish with a long lemon twist and serve
- Do not skip chilling the wine or the serving glasses. French 75 should be nicely chilled when serving.
- Do not add the ice cubes to the drink when serving. It will make the champagne lose its effervescence faster.
- You can also first pour the champagne into the glass and then add the shaken mixture. This way you won’t have to stir to mix at the risk of loosing the bubbles.
Best Gins for French 75
One of the most well known gin brands that makes a wonderful juniper-forward London Dry gin. The champagne in the cocktail elevates this gin’s notes to a higher level to make a refreshing drink. One of the best choices for a gin based French 75.
This gin is a premium product coming from Tanqueray, which is another popular gin brand. Although not as juniper intense as its more famous brother, the citrus notes in gin that come from grapefruit and orange lend a marvelous complexity to a French 75.
A soft gin with notes of fresh citrus notes followed juniper berries. If you prefer a subdued juniper profile, then you will like how the Plymouth marries its citrus and slightly earthy flavors with the champagne in a French 75.
Bombay Sapphire is famous for its mild yet complex taste. The juniper is present but not overpowering. Combine it with champagne, lemon juice and sugar to make a French 75 where you clearly taste the gin’s spicy flavors.
Sipsmith gin is known for its citrus zing. No wonder it pairs well with a bubbly in a French 75. However, it is not all lemons. Subtle notes from coriander and angelica roots also come through. French 75 with Sipsmith is a thoroughly delightful experience!
Bobby’s Gin is unique – it combines Indonesian spices with the traditionally used juniper and other botanicals. This gin has a spicy note on the nose, paired with plenty of fruity citrus as a side aroma. If you want a different touch to your French 75, we recommend making it with Bobby Schiedam.
Best Champagne or Sparkling Wine for French 75
As we mentioned before, it does not have to be champagne. But if you have to chose one, go for the BRUT as these are less sweet than dry champagnes.
Similarly, when choosing a sparkling wine, stick to a dry variety that is low on sweetness. This keeps the balance of flavors in check, and gives a chance for the gin’s notes to shine through.
Louis Roederer Champagne Brut Premier
The Brut Premier is produced exclusively from the two grape varieties Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Pinot Noir (approx. 2/3) gives it body, stability and structure. The Chardonnay (approx. 1/3) gives it freshness and elegance. A French 75 benefits from its Pinot Noir characteristics.
Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial
The Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial has a delicate fruit aroma of mixed fresh fruits and flowers with nuances of brioche. The start is soft, the transition fresh and long-lasting. It is impressive to drink on its own. But it also pairs magnificently in a French 75, especially with gins that have a fruity touch, like Tanqueray No. Ten.
Charles de Fere ‘Cuvee Jean-Louis’ Blanc de Blancs Brut
A fruity and clean sparkling wine that comes from France. It is made from a selection of the best basic wines from the different Blanc de Blancs grape varieties. This wine costs around $10, and it a great fit for a French 75. A perfect inexpensive option.
Interesting reads: Learn about the origins of Champagne with Dom Perignon.
French 75 Variations
Substitute the gin in a French 75 with rum, and you land with this drink. Think of it as a Daiquiri with the added bubbles from champagne.
Original French 75
The original French 75 that was made in Paris had cognac instead of gin. The cognac makes this cocktail richer in taste, as well as truly French.
Floral French 75
Try to add a floral touch by swapping the simple syrup with various liqueurs. Domaine de Canton and St. Germain are our favorites.
More gin cocktails can be found here.
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