Robert Hess 1 Oct 2007
3:08 pm

One way to look at drinks of course is to look at how they may have first been listed. In the case of the French 75, one of the earliest recipes is from the 1930 edition of Harry Craddock’s “The Savoy Cocktail Book”, where it is listed as:

The French “75” Cocktail:
  2/3 Gin.
  1/3 Lemon Juice.
  1 Spoonful Powdered Sugar.
Pour into tall glass containing cracked Ice and fill up with Champagne.
“Hits with remarkable precision”

You’ll notice that instead of the champagne flute like I show here, he uses a tall (Collins?) glass which also includes some ice. Not a bad way of serving it. But you’ll also note that the instructions are rather light on the actual measurements. the “2/3” and “1/3” here is essentially indicating that he is using twice as much gin as he does lemon juice. but exaclty how much is that? And 1 spoonful of powdered sugar… is that a teaspoon, tablespoon, or just whatever they were using back in those days as a barspoon? And even if he DID list the actual measures here, the size of the glass itself would matter, because if it were a large pint glass, then he could be adding a lot of champagne, but if it were in a smaller highball glass, he may only be adding an ounce or less.

With such inexactitudes of measurements in some of these older (or in fact some modern!) bar books, it can often be diffult to really know what the drink was like as it may have been served, which means we are somewhat up to our own devices to try to really understand the ingredients being used, and try to bring them together in a crisp and balanced fashion, and perhaps one that reflects some of our own personal style of execution… which is what you see me do in this episode.

-Robert

Jamie Boudreau 3 Oct 2007
11:19 am

Harry’s ABC claims to have invented this drink in 1925 and suggests a teaspoon of anis float. Comments?

Robert Hess 4 Oct 2007
7:58 am

...and over on Wikipedia they say that it was invented by WW1 flying ace “Raoul Lufbery”... which is the only place I’ve encountered that reference (thus making it suspect).

Adding a teaspoon of anis would really change the character of this drink. I’ll have to spin through all of my books to see if any other book refers to that as well, but I don’t recall having seen it.

Owen Webb 5 Oct 2007
2:02 pm

I rarely drink or use champagne in cocktails so its really quite expensive to make one of these as I open the champagne and then barely use it.  Any tips in this regard?  Also, how good does the champagne have to be?

Robert Hess 8 Oct 2007
4:51 pm

You can buy “splits” of champagne (ie. half-sized bottles), and frankly it doesn’t have to be super great stuff, but clearly something you can enjoy drinking.

erik_flannestad 2 Dec 2007
10:19 pm

Judge Jr.‘s 1927 “Here’s How”, which was liberally pilfered by Craddock and his editors, gives the French 75 as follows.

Blair Frodelius 18 Jun 2008
4:51 am

In the first edition of “The ABC of Mixing Drinks” (1919) Harry MacElhone credits the drink to MacGarry of Buck’s Club, London, England.  So, it’s a British drink that gained in popularity in France during American Prohibition.

As for keeping Champagne, there is a great little item I picked up that keeps it fresh for up to two weeks.  It’s called the Metrokane Velvet Champagne sealer.  Less than $8 on Amazon.com and works really well!

The Frounch Gui 6 Aug 2008
3:25 pm

The sparkling wine of this clip is called a “champagne” in the US (as a “semi-generic” term), but is does not come from the Champagne region in France so, according to French and European law, it cannot be called “champagne”. Having said that, there are very good sparkling wines which are not champagnes, and there are very bad champagnes.

Robert Hess 6 Aug 2008
3:29 pm

Yeah… I try real hard to say “Sparkling Wine” when I’m not using real Champagne, but dang, its hard to always get that right.

To folks in Champagne, I bet that bugs them just as much as it bugs me when somebody refers to a Lemon Drop as being a Martini.

I promise to do better in the future!

blair frodelius 6 Aug 2008
6:44 pm

bob,

i’ve enjoyed korbel. what are some american sparkling wines you’d recommend? 

blair

Robert Hess 7 Aug 2008
5:06 am

Blair,

There are lots and lots of great American sparkling wines. One of my go-to’s is Cuvee Mumm out of California, for a bargin sparkler, I often use one from Chateau St. Michelle a well known winery here in Washington State.

I’d recommend seeing if there are any offered by your own local wineries, and giving them a try to see what you think.

-Robert

John Waters 10 Jan 2009
5:04 am

Hi Robert,

For Christmas my sister gave me, “Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails” by Ted Haigh (a.k.a. Dr. Cocktail) which is truly a wonderful book. Last night I made “The French 75 Cocktail” (page 60) for a couple of friends and it was absolutely fantastic! The recipe provided calls for;

2 ounces gin (I used Plymouth gin)
1 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon simple syrup (I made using 1:1 ratio)

Shake with ice then strain into champagne flute and top with champagne (I used splits of Saint-Germain sparkling wine of France).
Garnish with cherry and a lemon spiral

True to it’s name it was, “smooth yet packs a wallop”!

Lawrence Spies 21 Aug 2009
1:49 pm

When ever I make a French 75 I use Freixenet Spumante. (love this stuff) And for a Mimosa as well…two of my favorite “Champagne” cocktails…

Nik 10 Nov 2009
7:31 pm

Hey Robert,

What device were you using in this video to keep the champagne capped, it doesnt look like the little silver stoppers I see everywhere else.

thanks,
nik

Robert Hess 10 Nov 2009
7:49 pm

Nik, I’ve got a bunch of different champagne stoppers, and I can quite see which one I’m using hear. It looks like it might be one I bought in Europe, but most of them are pretty much the same, being a rubber footed stopper that closes the opening, and then metal clamps which hold the stopper tight to top of the bottle.

Bill 11 Feb 2010
8:14 pm

Huh, I’ve been curious about this drink for a while. It appears to be very similar to a Tom Collins (made not with the mix, but with lemon and simple syrup), just with champagne—err, sparkling wine—standing in for the club soda.

Robert Hess 11 Feb 2010
9:32 pm

Bill, Yes, the Champagne cocktail could be seen as similar to a Tom Collins, but then a Manhattan could be seen as being similar to a Martini as well :-> Sometimes all it takes is just a slight tweak to move from one drink to something else. It is important however to know where that dividing line is, and how thick it is.
-Robert

AaronWalls 20 Apr 2010
8:32 pm

Robert, just discovered The Cocktail Spirit a couple months ago, and I am hooked. Very good stuff. I know I am not the only person who looks to you as the authority on which recipes are correct, although, I do differ from you on many of the spirit brands I buy. At any rate, a couple of questions about simple syrup:

First, I have seen some people use vodka to make their simple syrup shelf stable. Do you recommend this practice? And, if so, what ratio of vodka should I add to the simple syrup. I understand that vodka is intended to be a neutral spirit and should not affect the flavor of cocktails that I add it to, but it will certainly affect the alcohol content, if I am not careful.

Second, I have taken the habit of measuring and pouring my simple syrup first, as a good deal of it clings to the side of my measuring cup (I use the same OXO you use), and I find that pouring it first allows me to “rinse” the rest of it out of the jigger and into the shaker via pouring with my remaining ingredients.

Third, I understand the difference between 1:1 “regular” simple syrup and 2:1 “rich” syrup, but how do I know which is appropriate, when?

Finally, what do you think of agave nectar? I have never seen you use it, but I am quite fond of it. I have used it in recipes that call for it specifically, and have experimented with subbing it for simple syrup, which seems to work quite well in certain cocktails.

Thoughts? Thanks!

Aaron

Robert Hess 23 Apr 2010
1:01 pm

Aaron, Yes, I use vodka for my syrups to help make them shelf-stable, For a pint of syrup I typically add about an ounce of high proof vodka. This seems to do the job, although I’ve never done any experiments to find out what the “best” amount to add. Yes, this will affect the overall alcohol content of the drink, but not really enough for it to have any ill effects.

As for measuring order… yes, I sometimes have a tendency to measure the liquids with higher viscocity first, or sometimes even adding them into already measured spirit and adjust as necessary (ie. if I need 1.5 oz spirit and .5 oz syrup, leave the 1.5 oz spirit in the jigger and add syrup until it reaches 2 oz)

As for 1:1 to 2:1… My habit is to use 2:1, perhaps that is why folks keep claiming I have a sweet tooth. I think the main difference it makes is that one drink will be a touch sweeter than the other, and this becomes just a bit of personal preference. You shouldn’t just blindly follow a recipe precisely, but instead toy with it just a little to reflect either your tastes, or the products you are using. If you are using a 2:1 simple and find the drink a little too sweet, you could cut back a little on the syrup until it suits you.

As for Agave nectar, I’ve used it in at least one episode, the “Tequila Old Fashioned”. I think it is an intresting product and can be suiteable for many drinks.

-Robert

Nick L. 7 Jan 2011
2:49 pm

Great recipe.  Like you, Robert, I was a little confused regarding the exact volume of this drink when I saw it in the Savoy Cocktail Book.  After trying a few variations, I decided to take some liberties and adjust the volume/proportions to MY liking.  I’ve got to admit, mine is heavier on the gin, but I love the stuff and depending on the brand you use it can really work (Bluecoat and Martin Miller’s seem to hit the spot nicely).  I also ditched the granulated/superfine sugar (like you) and went for simple syrup instead.  I find it difficult to fully dissolve the sugar in this particular drink for whatever reason and seeing little granules floating in the bottom of your glass isn’t ideal in my eyes. 

I’ve almost always served this in a chilled champagne flute because I think it’s appropriate, although I’m sure a Collins glass would work fine as well.

Regardless, it’s a wonderful drink for any occasion, but certainly has that ‘celebratory’ appeal to it that makes it especially fun on holidays/birthdays/anniversaries/etc.

Justin Taylor 23 May 2011
11:46 am

What is your thoughts on cognac being used in the french 75?

Robert Hess 23 May 2011
1:40 pm

Justin,

Personally, I think the “correct” way to make a French 75, is with gin, but that doesn’t mean it is the only way. I’ve even done a second episode on the French 75 in which I discuss the “cognac” situation. Check it out!

http://www.smallscreennetwork.com/video/478/cocktail_spirit_french_75/

-Robert

David R. 23 Feb 2012
11:11 pm

Robert,

I recently picked up a copy of The Savoy Cocktail Book the other day and was flipping through it and noticed how it seems to be lacking specific units of measurement like you mentioned above. I can figure out what the fractions (e.g. 2/3 gin) mean, but what I don’t understand is when the cocktail recipe calls for “glassws.”

For example, the President Cocktail calls for 2 dashes of grenadine, the juice of 1/4 orange, and 1 glass of Bacardi.

Am I correct to assume that a glass refers to a standard jigger? Perhaps you could clarify this for me.

Robert Hess 24 Feb 2012
9:43 am

David, it sure is frustrating to encounter recipes in which the author clearly understood what they were doing, but just doesn’t quite explain things properly for the reader to figure it out. In this case a “glass” should be considered to be 2 ounces. But also to consider is that this whole recipe is one of “approximations”. A dash, especially of a syrup, is not easy to define, nor is “the juice of 1/4 orange”, so here is a perfect drink to try to get as close as you can to, and then adjust as you feel necessary to fine tune it to your tastes.

You might also want to check out savoystomp.com where Erik Ellestad goes through the Savoy Cocktail book one drink at a time. The President Cocktail you can find here: http://savoystomp.com/2009/09/17/president-cocktail/

-Robert

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