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The French 75 drink is a surefire crowd-pleaser. With the combination of sparkling wine and citrus, it has all the drinkability of brunch favorite, the mimosa, but with an extra punch of booziness from its gin base. Think of it like a lemonade mimosa! For vodka drinkers, even ones adverse to gin, the French 75 cleverly balances its gin content with the other ingredients. It’s the perfect example of a well-designed gin cocktail that capitalizes on the spirit’s strengths while hiding the qualities that might turn imbibers away.
Despite its inviting bubbles, the drink packs a surprising amount of power. Appropriately, it is named for the French 75 mm field gun. Widely considered the first modern artillery weapon, it was an anti-personnel gun that could quickly fire large shells (15 rounds per minute!) to drive back the advance of the enemy or even shoot down aircraft. French 75s are still used today for ceremonial purposes in France. Of course, there, it’s just called the Soixante-Quinze.
The French 75 cocktail first appeared by that name in a cocktail book called Here’s How in 1927. Three years later, Harry Craddock picked it up and published it in his landmark Savoy Cocktail Book and it took the drinking world by storm.
However, it wasn’t the first or last cocktail named in honor of the gun. A cocktail called the 75 or Soixante-Quinze appeared in newspapers about a decade earlier as a combination of gin, apple brandy, and grenadine. That cocktail was listed in Here’s How as “The Tunney.” After Prohibition and the creation of this French 75, some cocktail books started listing an alternative French 75 that uses cognac in place of the gin.
Three years later, Harry Craddock picked it up and published it in his landmark Savoy Cocktail Book and it took the drinking world by storm.
That’s not the end of the craziness in this cocktail’s history! Rewind to the middle of the 19th century and there are references to author Charles Dickens serving “Tom Gin and Champagne Cups” at parties. A popular cocktail at the time, a Champagne Cup includes champagne, lemon juice, and sugar. Add in the Tom Gin and you’ve got yourself the exact cocktail “invented” during Prohibition. That tells us that people across the world were drinking French 75s for decades before anyone bothered to write down a proper name for it.
The French 75 is a delicious and elegant concoction. Don’t take it from us though; just listen to how it was described in Here’s How: “This drink is what really won the War for the Allies.”