I find the classic French 75 a perenially enjoyable cocktail. It's a simple but elegant affair of champagne spiked with gin and a splash of lemon. It's sort of a Tom Collins with an extra kick.
While the French 75's simplicity is part of its allure, it's also its Achilles heel. It's almost a little too simple. What can you do to dust off the old French 75 to breathe in some new life but keep its elegant character?
It just so happens that deep in my recipe file, the answer already exists. Back in my Trader Vic's days, one of my very favorite Tiki cocktails on the menu was one called the Colonel's Big Opu. In case you're wondering, "opu" is Hawaiian for belly. My best guess is there was some rotund military brass who who loved French 75s and was a regular at the bar, and Vic made this variation for him.
The ol' Colonel changes things up by subtly changing the focus of the drink. The French 75 is focused on the champagne, because the lemon is a classic pairing for champagne. The use of lime focuses the attention on the gin, as gin and lime go together like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
To give a little extra dimension to the drink, Vic used triple sec in place of the simple syrup. It's a great trick to keep under your hat when you think a drink needs a touch of sweetness but might need a little extra something. Note that different brands of triple sec have varying levels of sweetness; you may find that your finished cocktail needs a small dollop of simple syrup to balance everything.
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While you can give this drink a good old hearty shake, I like giving everything but the champagne a quick whirl in the blender. Nothing too crazy, just a couple of seconds to break up the ice.
Colonel's Big Opu 1/2 ounce lime juice 1 ounce gin 1 ounce triple sec 2 ounces champagne
Blend lime, gin, and triple sec with 1 cup ice cubes in a blender on high speed for 5 seconds. Pour into a pilsner glass. Top with champagne.