Soixante Quinze

December 24th, 2009

If you had to pick a drink that sums up Christmas and New Year Champagne wouldn’t be a bad choice. From a Champagne breakfast on Christmas morning to popping the cork as the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve Champagne is deeply linked to the festive season. While a glass of Champagne on its own is nothing to complain about, sometimes something with a little more perk might be wished for. And when it comes to Champagne cocktails I think it’s hard to beat the French 75.

Named after the French 75mm howitzer artillery piece from World War I the history of the French 75, like so many other classic cocktails, is rather uncertain – with even the base spirit in question. Some claim it was invented for the fighter pilots of 411, the Lafayette Escadrille. An outfit made up of French and American aces, the story goes that they began toasting their fallen comrades with Champagne but soon started to fortify the drink with something more potent. Lacking whiskey, the Americans opted for the more readily accessible Cognac.

Others argue the drink was instead invented by the British who during World War I received a daily gin ration and began adding it to the locally available Champagne. This gin version is the recipe that first appeared in print, and is the most well known French 75 recipe. I generally prefer the gin version (I am British after all!) though it has to be said the Cognac version severed at Arnoud’s French 75 bar isn’t bad at all.

French 75 cocktail

French 75

View in: oz | ml | shots

Bright, bubbly, with the lovely zesty tang of the lemon and the extra oomph of the gin, the French 75 is for me the perfect Champagne cocktail. The orange zest twist isn’t a traditional garnish for the drink but I love the zesty orange aroma it adds to the nose, which complements the rest of the ingredients nicely. Harry Cradock writes in the Savoy Cocktail Book that the drink “Hits with precision”. Quite.

I only ever seem to drink these around Christmas time, but I can’t think of any occasion that wouldn’t be brightened by the addition of a French 75 so really must mix these up more often. With regards to the Champagne, using Krug would be a little wasteful not to mention sacrilege to la maison Krug, however like all cocktails it is a sum of its parts and you should at least use a bubbly you would be happy to drink on its own.

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Posted in Champagne, Gin, Lemon, Recipes

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12 responses to “Soixante Quinze”

  1. rowley rowley says:

    French 75s for Christmas eve, eh? I’m not particularly prone to hangovers, but these have hammered me into submission more than once. In moderation or not, it’s one of my go-to drinks for converting drinkers who claim not to like gin.

  2. Gonçalo Gonçalo says:

    I like that Krug idea for the Seventy Five. Unfortunateley the right Lemon did not cross my path for such a purpose – yet.

  3. Aaron Aaron says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t soixante 60?

  4. Gonçalo Gonçalo says:

    You are right; soixante is 60.
    And; quinze is 15…

  5. Dutch Courage Dutch Courage says: my opinion..what place do lemon juice has in a fine champagne glass?


  6. AlchemistGeorge AlchemistGeorge says:

    We’ve served these many times, if you are doing the original (?) gin version, I’d recommend a gin that is light on the juniper, and then going light on the sugar and using a brut champagne, so that the overall effect is a dry drink – well made it is one of incomparable elegance. [Try the one that is served at Bourbon & Branch]

    With cognac or brandy, I tend to steer the other way to a slightly sweet drink, I’ve found these to be very popular with the ladies.

    While I’ve gotten away serving these at large events using truly barbarous “Champagne” it is better to use a sparkler you might drink on its own – Prosecco, Sparkling Wine, whatever

  7. fred fred says:

    You can make a slightly modified version and use Limoncello instead of Lemon and sugar. Look for a fresh not too sweet Limoncello like CA made Limoncello di Sonoma.

  8. Aaron Aaron says:

    Gonçalo: aha, goes to show how much french i’ve remembered from primary school :)

  9. Vodka & Co. | Alcool News #37 says:

    [...] Soixante Quinze > Oh Gosh ! • Wine Tasting by Mail Sample Tubes > NotCot • Vidéo: Marta G Wiley peint avec du vin > Le [...]

  10. Pete Pete says:

    Two things: I think of this cocktail as more of a late spring/summer drink, so I have to respectfully take issue with your intro, which makes it seem like more of a holiday drink. I do agree, though, that something more could be done with the “champagne breakfast” of Christmas morning, and a French 75 would fit the bill (if not the common Mimosa).

    The second thing is just to point out that in the end of the third paragraph you wrote “severed” instead of “served,” which makes it sound like they have a pretty dramatic way of serving their French 75s…

  11. Jerry Hanley Jerry Hanley says:

    VARIATION and a bit more of the pseudo history:
    We make a special version for fundraisers which really is quite popular. Thinking French but also efficiency we figured pink French lemonade kills 2 birds with 1 stone and shifts the “feel of” the cocktail a bit. We use champagne as the float but might use the carbonated form of the lemonade too. Typically our ration is about 1/2 & 1/2 gin to lemonade and then 1/3 more of the champagne float. We pre-mix the tray full of the gin/lemonade ingredients first and just march the tray out shortly after first arrivals and pour the float onto the chilled glass of premix…this prevents folks from saying NO to GIN but in fairness we keep the balance of gin to assure safe driving afterwards.

    History, c.f also THE GUNS of August ,etc, The French military were crushed in the Franco Prussian War but they believed that their ultra fast and mobile artillery batteries plus pre-set fortified lines of defense would prevent a recurrence of defeat in 1914. Their notion of “elan vitale” was fatuous but effervescent…like the cocktail. And they were wrong. If fact the 75’s were very mobile but from my research the French were notoriously out gunned in duels of guns as they were in the Franco-Prussian war,too. Arms of Krupp etc. So when I serve this drink I tell folks that the drink makes a lot of noise and is a joyous cocktail but when the dust settles it turns out to be harmless all-in-all. Mine is made that way,too.
    My Dad spent a fair amount of time in Paris between the wars and that was his conclusion,too. RIP.

  12. Alp Alp says:

    A similar cocktail using gin & champagne:
    Add gin ( arnd 1.5 oz )to Kir Royal, it somehow works very very well, it becomes a cocktail that you may also continue to drink throughout the meal.

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