I’ve talked a lot about our Friday cocktail tradition. If you follow me on Instagram then you know it’s somewhat of an institution and nearly every week I post the recipe for whatever we happen to be drinking at the time. I have my old standbys, my favorites like a gin and tonic with lime or a wet martini with three olives. I’m picky when it comes to cocktails. I don’t like anything too fruity or sweet; anything that can be garnished with an umbrella is automatically out. For me, the point of a cocktail is to highlight the flavors in each of the individual spirits. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to gin – there are so many different flavor complexities. In time I’ll share the recipes for all my favourites here, but today I want to talk about the French 75, which I think is one of the classiest of the classic cocktails…
It is, in essence, a variation on the gin and tonic with the tonic water being replaced by Champagne. I like to think of this as the Bogart & Bacall of the cocktail world. The Champagne, of course, is Lauren – sophisticated in that sultry, up-town girl way that only she could pull off. That makes Humphrey the Gin. He’s smooth and charming, but a little rebellious and rough around the edges, too. Together their chemistry is what legends are made of.
The French 75 is one of those legendary cocktails rumored to be created at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris around the time of the outbreak of World War I. As such it was named after the French 75 field gun used in the war. Apparently it packed a punch! The recipe has been around for over a hundred years, with all the various tweaks and twists that come with time. This is my favourite version – light on the lemon juice, heavy on the Champagne. I use vanilla-sugar because I love the sweet hint of vanilla in the background, but fine, white sugar works just as well. Feel free to play around with the proportions to suit your tastes.
(for 1 drink)
2 oz. dry gin
3/4 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla sugar
chilled Brut Champagne or dry sparkling wine
a lemon twist
Add the gin, lemon juice and sugar to a cocktail shaker. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add ice to the shaker and shake until very cold. Strain into a champagne flute and top with Champagne or other bubbly. Garnish with a lemon twist and serve very cold.
To make the lemon twists, use a sharp knife starting at one end of the lemon and cut a long, wide strip of the peel off, carefully working your way all the way around the lemon. Lay the strip flat on the cutting board and cut it into several thin strips. Wrap the strips around a skewer or chop stick and place a weight on top of them (I use the lemon bowl) while you prepare the cocktails. The weight will help the lemon twists hold their shape.