Tomorrow is Bastille Day, when the French celebrate the storming of the Bastille and kickoff of the French Revolution. You would think Americans would make a drinking holiday out of it.
We already have St. Pat's and Cinco de Drinko, so why not Bastille Day? Here's why: The French drink a lot of wine; Americans don't. The few truly French cocktails out there are all wine-based, like the Kir (white wine and Chambord) and the Rose (dry French vermouth with kirsch and raspberry syrup).
The French 75's origins are shrouded in a bit of mystery. Harry's New York Bar in Paris claims to have invented the drink in 1915. And cocktail historian David Wondrich has reason to believe it's the only cocktail invented in the USA during the dark days of Prohibition.
I'm a bit more inclined to believe Wondrich, but either way, one thing is for sure: It's named for a piece of French artillery. The 75mm shell provided an awful lot of firepower in a small, light package, and the gun itself had a new type of recoil mechanism that was incredibly smooth.
You can guess how the drink goes down.
There is some debate whether the original French 75 uses gin or cognac as the base. Cognac would certainly make sense; it is, after all, the French 75, and Cognac is as French as spirits get. But, one has to remember this was created in the USA during Prohibition.
Cognac was quite scarce, but gin (usually of questionable quality) was often the drink of choice. Personally, I make it with gin when it's warm, and then switch to cognac for the fleeting moments that Phoenix calls winter. I don't shake mine too hard; all the more room for champagne that way. There's certainly room for a bit more gin in there if you like; if you go generous with the gin (Wondrich would approve), be sure to give the drink a good hard shake to tame it.
French 75 1 ounce gin ½ ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice ¼ ounce simple syrup Champagne
Shake gin, lemon, and simple syrup with ice. Strain into a Collins glass half-filled with ice. Top with Champagne.
That was Last Call, in which JK Grence, bartender at Shady's, serves up booze advice. Have a question for JK? Leave it in the comments below.