The French 75 is that rare creature of a cocktail recipe: elegant enough to make it feel as if you’re in Paris on New Year’s Eve, but made with just a few simple ingredients that come together with little more effort than it would take for you to crack open that same old bottle of wine.
Simple syrup is the only element of this Champagne cocktail that requires a little work. Classic instructions for the sweetener call for stirring 1 cup of boiling water into 1 cup of sugar, then chilling the solution until cool. Modern bartenders prefer to blend their syrups using cold water to better control the dilution (no evaporating steam). For the home bartender, either will work fine. Brut Champagne is the traditional choice for the bubbles, but any good and very dry sparkling wine like cava or prosecco will work in a pinch.
There’s some debate about how to make a French 75; namely, should its ingredients call for gin or cognac? The drink’s name comes from the 75-millimeter field guns used in World War I, says Chris Hannah, head bartender at Arnaud’s French 75 Bar in New Orleans. “The Lafayette Escadrille were an allied fighter pilot outfit made up of American and French military who would drink cognac and Champagne after successful air raids and toast to the French 75 cannon for their safety.” Some cite Harry’s New York Bar in Paris—also in the pro-Cognac camp—for making the drink popular. Today it’s more common to see the cocktail made with dry gin, as in our recipe, but either works well. If you prefer cognac,is a good choice. Serve this classic cocktail in Champagne flutes for the full effect.