The Quarantini Series: French 75
Spring is inching, or centimeter-ing, closer here in Iowa, but we have been cursed by a week of low temps and high winds. Took a walk with Maks the other and became an icicle, the likes of which you might see in Chicago in mid-January. What's more, my hair has become too long to keep out of my eyes, which makes avoiding touching my face difficult.
Seeking something bright and bubbly to lift my spirits, my mind was brought back to one of my very favorite cocktails that just screams warmer weather and happier times. Back in 2011, my best buddy Jason Vodicka and I started our grad conducting programs at the University of Georgia in dear old Athens, and would routinely find ourselves bellying up to the bar at the old stalwart, The Globe. It was there I was introduced to this magical concoction of gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and sparkling wine. Jason and I would order two and stumble out of the bar––they were massive and too easy to gulp down. We used to joke that we'd reach the "French 150" when we'd drained two, and the French 225 when we had three (on days when we needed three). We never hit the French 300, which is probably for the best.
The recipe actually dates to World War I, created, as many great drinks were, at a hotel bar in New York City, and named after a type of French cannon. The cannon namesake is apt, because this thing can pack a punch!
On your shopping list: gin, lemon juice, sugar or simple syrup, and a dry bubbly. I prefer a nice, clean, London dry gin with a French 75, like Bombay Sapphire, which you can usually land for 20-some bucks at any local store. Prosecco is a good choice for a bubbly, which is nice and dry and has some lovely yellow fruit; just make sure what you pick is dry! Always, of course, use fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and if you can't find simple syrup, just melt a cup of sugar in a cup of water until dissolved, and you'll have a big batch.
I love the fresh scent of just-sliced lemons.
I usually serve these in a standard wine glass or champagne flute; I recommend dropping some ice and cold water in the glass and letting it sit for a few minutes to chill the glass. Ideally, the bubbly should also be quite cold.
Measure out 2 oz. per drink of gin and 0.75 oz. each of lemon juice and simple syrup. As you get used to the drink, you can adjust to taste––want more tang? Add more lemon. More sweetness? Add more simple. Anchor yourself around 2 oz. of gin. Add all the ingredients with ice to a cocktail shaker and shake like mad. Dump water and ice out of the chilled glasses and strain the drink into the glass.
After straining, add between 2–3 oz. of bubbly, to taste. I tend toward 3 oz., but it very much depends on your gin and bubbly. Each bottle is different!
I've never figured out how to get a curl of lemon peel, so I just drop some peel into the drink to add even more lemony essence. Give the peel a little squeeze over the drink to really release the aroma. Then, shamelessly smell your fingertips. Ahhh, summer!
The French 75 is a truly enjoyable cocktail, suitable for the upcoming warmer weather. I recommend it both in the evenings and during a fabulous brunch. Some variations to consider as well––try it with cognac instead of gin (something that I have heard from at least one person was the "original" recipe and is much heftier and absolutely delicious), or try using different types of citrus, such as Meyer lemons, pink lemons, or yuzu. Of course, try different gins and bubbles and tweak the amounts until you find your ideal 75. The sky is the limit!