What Is a French 75?
The French 75 is a cocktail made from gin, champagne, lemon juice, and sugar. It's also called a 75 Cocktail or a "Soixante Quinze" (Seventy-Five) in French.
It's one of the most popular cocktails that uses gin as its base liquor-it's responsible for a lot of gin bottles in a bar liquor bottle display. Some recipes call for cognac and other variations, but the history of the French 75 recipe with gin stretches back to the early 20th century. It's a favorite for National Cocktail Day.
An early form of the French 75 appeared in 1915 at the New York Bar in Paris, later renamed Harry's New York Bar. The combination gave drinkers a powerful effect similar to being shelled with the powerful French 75mm field gun.
Many bar patrons had just returned from fighting in World War I and made the comparison in naming the mixed drink. It started gaining popularity in the years leading up to the Prohibition era in America.
French 75 History
The current name and recipe of the drink grew during the 1920s. This was the period of Prohibition in the United States, so your local speakeasy was the only place to order a French 75.
There were drinks with similar recipes served in the 19th century. The Champagne Cup was one of them, with ingredients including champagne, lemon juice, sugar, and ice. Gin was occasionally added to the mix, giving it a similar flavor to the French 75 recipe.
Two cocktail books published the current recipe in 1922. Harry MacElhone listed it as the "75" in his book Harry's ABC of Mixing Cocktails, and Robert Vermeire credited the drink to MacElhone in his book Cocktails: How to Mix Them. However, MacElhone's recipe called for Calvados, gin, grenadine, and absinthe, while Vermeire's added lemon juice.
The recipe took its current form and name in 1927, then appeared in The Savoy Cocktail Book, considered by some to be the best classic cocktail recipe book. Upon publication of the book in 1930, the French 75 experienced a rise in popularity. This trend continued after the end of Prohibition in 1933.
The Stork Club in New York helped popularize the drink in the United States. Some later cocktail books, like David A. Embury's The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, substitute cognac for gin. However, most bartenders and mixologists abide by the classic recipe that uses gin.
Arnaud's French 75 Bar
Arnaud's, a classic New Orleans bar and restaurant, perfected the drink and requires employees to master it as part of their bar training. It has become one of the iconic "Big Easy" and Mardi Gras cocktails along with the Sazerac and Mint Julep.
It's a Creole restaurant with a bar that's become one of the marquee places to enjoy a French 75. This is the main reason the bar bears the drink's name.
Arnaud's French 75 Bar has won the highly coveted James Beard Award for "Outstanding Bar Program" and has been named "One of the Top Five Bars in the Country" by Esquire Magazine. The establishment has earned respect for its signature cocktails with high-quality liquors, locally sourced ingredients, and homemade syrups.
The bar has a vintage atmosphere with bartenders dressed in white tuxedos, mosaic tile floors, and a wooden bar layout constructed in the late 1800s. Next time you're in New Orleans, add this bar and restaurant to your itinerary to sample their wonderful French 75 recipe.
French 75 Recipe
The French 75 recipe is a fruity and bubbly twist on the Tom Collins. It's one of the most refreshing summer cocktails that's also perfect for any season.
Although the traditional recipe calls for champagne, you can substitute a number of sparkling wines for it when making the cocktail. Here's our French 75 recipe:
French 75 Ingredients
- 1 oz. gin
- 2 oz. champagne
- 0.5 oz. lemon juice
- 2 dashes simple syrup
French 75 Directions
- Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add gin, syrup, and lemon juice.
- Shake vigorously and strain into an iced champagne glass.
- Top up with champagne and stir gently.
French 75 Variations
The French 75 is a sparkling cocktail perfect for a relaxed brunch or a festive dinner. It has a relatively simple list of ingredients that are ideal for experimentation.
You don't need a bartending license or a mixology certification to get creative with cocktails. Here are a few recommendations for changing up your traditional French 75 recipe.
1. French Harvest
This recipe stays true to the classic French 75 apart from swapping champagne for French cider. This provides an infusion of fruit to the otherwise simple taste of the cocktail. Choose a floral London dry gin with strong juniper notes to best complement the cider's flavors.
2. Old Cuban
The Old Cuban is one of many classic and modern mixed drinks that cite New York City as their birthplace. Audrey Saunders, a former bartender at the closed Pegu Club, created the Old Cuban during her rise to the top of the bartending world.
The taste falls somewhere between a French 75 and a Mojito. It consists of aged rum, lime juice, simple syrup, Angostura bitters, mint, and champagne.
3. West 75th
The French 75 and the New York Sour merge to make this fine cocktail. Buy a bottle of Calvados, a French apple brandy, and pair it with lemon juice, raspberry syrup, and your favorite orange bitters recipe. Top it up with sparkling red wine for a dazzling appearance.
The Maxwell has notes of lemon and cucumber, making it a worthwhile addition to your spring cocktails list. Choose from a variety of cucumber flavored types of vodka as your base liquor and add Cointreau, cucumber juice, lemon juice, and agave nectar. Top it with champagne for a balanced mixture of character and depth.
5. South Mint 75
The South Side is a popular gin sour that's a Gimlet with mint, and this cocktail is a subtle evolution from it. This drink draws inspiration from Southeast Asia by including lemongrass syrup with citrus-forward herbal notes. Add gin, lime juice, mint, and Cava for bubbles, and you have a refreshing and sparkling cocktail.
Frequently Asked Questions About French 75
Why Do They Call the Drink French 75?
The rapidly firing 75mm machine gun used by French soldiers during World War I provided the name for the cocktail. It's also sometimes referred to as a "75" or "Soixante Quinze" (Seventy-Five) in French. An early version of the drink appeared at the New York Bar in Paris in 1915, during the First World War.
What Type of Gin Goes In a French 75?
Dry gins with citrus notes blend perfectly with champagne, lemon juice, and sugar in a French 75. Beefeater, Bombay Sapphire, and Hendrick's are examples of dry gins that complement the other ingredients in the cocktail well.
What Champagne Is Good for a French 75?
A bottle of brut champagne is the best choice for a French 75 cocktail. It's dry champagne that provides better balance to the drink's flavors. You can also substitute sparkling wine for champagne, but make sure it’s a dry wine.
Relax with a French 75
The French 75 is the perfect cocktail for warm weather or any time of the year. Whether you’re running a bar or entertaining guests at your home, it's a good idea to have supplies in stock for making one.
If you’re starting a bar, you’ll want to hire bartenders that know how to make all the basic bartending drinks. A French 75 is definitely one of the cocktails on that list.
When your bar staff is making drinks that build loyalty and keep customer satisfaction rates high, you’ll be able to rest assured that your bar profitability will be in good shape. Then, you’ll be able to relax with a French 75 while bar and restaurant operations run smoothly and profitably.