The French 75 cocktail has made drinkers swoon for more than a century thanks to its easy elegance and subtly sweet effervescence. If you haven’t tried this drink, you really ought to remedy that. Here’s how to make it.
The French 75 cocktail has been popular for more than a century, and for good reason. It’s a sophisticated cocktail that makes an elegant aperitif given the subtle intensity of Cognac, the sweetly tart lilt of lemon simple syrup, and the effusive effervescence of Champagne splashed in at the end.–Ina Garten
HOW DID THE CLASSIC FRENCH 75 GET ITS NAME?
One version of the tale behind the French 75 cocktail has us believe that back during World War 1, the French and American troops celebrated victories with Champagne and Cognac mixed with lemon and sugar. As the story goes, the French 75 was named after the 75 mm gun relied upon by French forces. The gun was known for its accuracy and its swiftness, and being knocked down by a bullet from it was about like the kick felt when imbibing this cocktail.
Years later, gin became an able substitute for the Cognac, although neither version is better per se. Nor is there a proper or precise proportion of booze to Champagne, seeing as it seems to vary with each bartender who shakes this cocktail. So make it. Taste it. Tweak it if you want. Make it your own. It’s the effusive and inebriating spirit behind this inspired mingling of ingredients that makes the cocktail a classic, not the precise amount of this or that. Kindly note that pacifists may wish to abstain given the cocktail’s rather rowdy rumored past.
French 75 Cocktail
- 3 or more lemons preferably organic
- 1/2 cup Cognac (VS or VSOP)
- 1/2 cup simple syrup or less to taste
- 2 cups ice cubes
- 1 (26-ounce) bottle Champagne chilled
- 4 long strips lemon zest preferably organic
- Before squeezing the lemons for their juice, use a sharp vegetable peeler to zest the lemon into long strips, taking care to avoid the bitter white pith beneath the zest. Then squeeze enough lemons to yield 1 ⁄ 3 cup (3 ounces or 80 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice.
- Pour the lemon juice, Cognac, and simple syrup into a cocktail shaker and add the ice. Shake for at least 30 seconds. (It’s longer than you think!)
- Divvy the mixture among 6 flutes, filling each glass about 2/3 full. (If you prefer a less sweet cocktail, start by filling a glass 1/2 full.) Top off each flute with Champagne, garnish with the lemon zest, and serve ice cold.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
Ooh la la! Delish. We always have a bottle of Champagne chilling in the fridge—ready for any celebratory occasion or for making sparkly sweet lemony cocktails such as this French 75 cocktail, which is a lovely addition to one's Champagne cocktail repertoire.
I had to squeeze 2 1/2 lemons to get the 1/3 cup required. My cocktail shaker couldn't fit all 2 cups of ice, so I filled as much as possible, leaving just enough room for shaking. I used a timer to make sure I shook for 30 seconds and since the recipe produced quite a bit of mixture, I just put the shaker in the fridge to keep cold until we were ready for refills.
And refill we did...again and again and again. We actually preferred the cocktail with less syrup mixture and more Champagne at more of a 1:1 ratio, but that's the beauty of cocktails. And this cocktail especially you can adjust to taste.
This is a delicious recipe for a classic cocktail. It's a good one to have in your repertoire since there aren't many Champagne cocktail besides mimosas. It's quick and easy to make. The lemon gives the drink some bite while the cognac gives smoothness.
I think I can take or leave the simple syrup. The cocktail isn't too sweet but I do prefer mine a little on the dry side.
Originally published December 24, 2016