The French 75 is a renowned classic that 'hits with remarkable precision’ and a concoction, deserving of its Savoy Cocktail Book residency. This is a cocktail of refined simplicity, while being yet another tippled tapestry of debate.
The question on every discerning drinker’s lips however, is: ‘Should the French 75 be made with Cognac or Gin?’.
Like with many French Quarter classics, cocktails in the Big Easy have been pulled, poked and prodded for decades. So, tailor your serve as you see fit, but before popping open the bubbly, keep in mind that this storied cocktail is cherished for its potency.
Disassembling the French 75 Cocktail
Although Harry Craddock, of the Savoy Hotel London, had no part in inventing the drink, he certainly played a role in popularising it, granting exposure to “The French 75 Cocktail” in 1930.
Originally, the French 75 is thought to be named in celebration of the successful firepower behind the French 75mm field-gun, used in WW1. The drink’s signature lies with its sought-after ‘kick’ for a fashionable and unexpectedly robust serve. Considering the cocktail is named after such a weapon, you would expect it to be one of its own, right?
The familiar combo of gin, lemon, sugar, and champagne may be the most recognisable French 75 recipe, savoured across modern bars today. Difford’s Guide for Discerning Drinker’s dissects the ‘much confused history’ of the Soixante-Quinze, but what we’re interested in, is the connection this iconic cocktail has to New Orleans…
The first sighting of the French 75 being made with Cognac appears in David Embury’s 1948 book, The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, stating, “it should no longer be called French” if made with Gin and not Cognac. But the confusion doesn’t stop there – there’s even debate with the representing numbers attached to the cocktail. With 75 referring to Gin and the French 125 being the brandy version of the drink.
For now, what gains our attention, is that the French 75 is hugely attached to the eponymously named Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, a historic French-Creole restaurant in NOLA’s French Quarter.
Arnaud’s is ‘inspired by France, but profoundly New Orleans’ with its bar dedicated to refined, hand-crafted and high-quality serves - the French 75 being their hero concoction. Typically shaking up Courvoisier VS, Lemon Juice and Simple Syrup before topping the chilled tulip glass with Champagne, Arnaud’s recipe is one that has inspired our Kitchen-Cocktail recipe.
How to Make the French 75
15ml Lemon Juice
10ml Sugar Syrup
Top with Champagne
Add Cognac, Lemon Juice and Sugar into a cocktail shaker, filled with cubed ice.
Shake until ingredients are chilled, diluted and properly mixed.
Served Up - Double strain into a chilled coupe or flute and top with Champagne.
Served Long - Strain into a chilled Collins glass filled with fresh cubed ice, top with Champagne.
Garnish with Lemon Twist.
Upgrading your French 75
The Spirit - If you do opt for the Gin concoction, classic gins work great here. We’re recommending Tanqueray No.10 or Plymouth Gin, as they have a big juniper core which allows you to reach a perfect balance through the recipe. For those wanting to lean into the American influence – opt for Aviation Gin. Perfumed and floral gins with big lavender top notes can bring a delicate, clean finish to your drink.
Choosing your Cognac – If you’re looking to place yourself in the spirited neighbourhood of New Orleans’ French Quarter, then Cognac is the way forward. Arnaud’s Bar opts for the youthful, lively blend of Courvoisier VS Cognac, for its delicate, approachable and oaked flavour profile.
However, we’re leaning towards a VSOP. Choose between the rich mahogany colour and vitality of Hennessy VSOP for a finish, bursting with tobacco undertones. Or, turn your head towards Rémy Martin VSOP for aromas of ripe apricot and baked apple. Great complexity for its price.
Siding with Quality – Using fresh lemon juice will significantly step up your cocktail game. You will only benefit from using quality ingredients in the French 75, anything blatantly artificial will be an obvious intruder. Your palate will make it known if any shortcuts have been taken.
Glassware - Much like the base-spirit being a topic of discussion, the chosen glassware of the cocktail proves to be another asset worth talking about. From long serves over ice in a Collins, to poured ‘up’ in a Coupe or Champagne Flute - the French 75 proves to be a tantalisingly hot topic. Side with what you’re in the mood for, but a Coupe will make you feel like you’ve stepped into the cinematic gin-joint of Casablanca. Your experience, your choice!