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The French 75 is a beloved Champagne cocktail that is steeped in international folklore and world history. This boozy yet elegant beverage is believed to have been first invented during WWI, as it was named after the French 75-millimeter light field gun, an innovative and powerful weapon used by the French army that created an unmatched level of fire compared to any other early 20th-century artillery weapon (via Drink Magazine). This high-alcohol libation was joked to be as deadly as the gun it was named for due to its high alcohol content, and it unsurprisingly became an instant classic among the Lost Generation and Roaring Twenties set after The Great War’s end.
Though the cocktail has had several name changes and many recipe iterations over the last century (some believe the drink was originally made with cognac or brandy instead of gin), the French 75 remains one of the most popular cocktails in the world for its bubbly, sweet-tart flavor that elevates any occasion (via Vine Pair). We asked six cocktail experts their thoughts on the 10 best gins to use in a French 75 that will make for the ultimate bubbly libation that’s suitable for year-round sipping. From classic bar favorites to lesser-known specialty gins, there’s something for every budget to help you create this historic drink for your next cocktail party or at-home date night.
Even older than the French 75 itself, Beefeater Gin dates back to 1820, according to the distillery, yet it’s still made with the original recipe more than 200 years later. It is a benchmark for London dry gin, thanks to its botanical, juniper-forward aromas, woodsy and floral mouthfeel, and a sharp yet refreshing finish. Since gin isn’t created for sipping neat like certain bourbons and tequilas are, it’s important to find the perfect alchemy to both highlight and balance a London dry gin’s strong botanical flavors. Lemon, crisp Champagne bubbles, and a hint of sweetness makes an ideal pairing for this London dry gin.
"When making a French 75, I recommend a dry gin, the type you would use to make a good quality martini," cocktail blogger and author Camille Wilson tells Tasting Table. "I like a dry gin for this recipe because the simple syrup and sparkling wine provide some sweetness to the drink. And a dry gin balances it out. And if it has hints of citrus in it, that’s even better since that will dial up the lemon flavor in the cocktail." According to Wilson, that makes Beefeater a perfect pick for those seeking to concoct a classic French 75.
"The universal appeal of the French 75 is owed to its effervescence and bright, refreshing citrus flavor," André Darlington, drinks writer and author of "Bar Menu" tells Tasting Table. "It is a great crowd pleaser that I love to use as a welcome drink at cocktail parties, and it is the perfect drink to play with various gins that either help define or round-out the other ingredients."
If you’re already a fan of the cocktail and are looking to experiment with new flavors, Darlington suggests picking up a bottle of Monkey 47, a German gin made in the country’s picturesque Black Forest. This spirit is crafted with 47 different botanicals (hence the name), offering gin fans a unique drinking experience with each pour. Some of those plants include acacia, lingonberries, spruce, and lavender. While Monkey 47 likely won’t become your first pick for everyday drinks, it is sure to be a crowd-pleaser that will enhance the right libations, like a French 75.
"Monkey 47 brings an herbaceous and floral profile that both tampers the drink’s citrus as well as piques guests’ curiosity — why are there hints of rosemary, pine, and mint in my glass?" says Darlington. "It’s both a great cocktail and a conversation starter."
While some bartenders have begun making the French 75 with cognac instead of gin, which is great for cooler weather, Adrienne Stillman Krausz, author of "Spirited: Cocktails From Around the World" tells Tasting Table that there’s nothing like enjoying the classic gin cocktail prepared in the traditional fashion — and served in a Champagne flute, no less. She recommends using Plymouth Gin, an English brand that has been making the same recipe in Devon since 1793 (its distillery dates back to the 15th century as a former monastery). This centuries-old gin has even been distilled in the same pot since the 1800s and uses seven main botanicals to achieve its award-winning flavor.
Stillman Krausz deems Plymouth as one of her "favorite all-around mixing gins because of its depth of flavor and balance of citrus and juniper." When you’re not serving up French 75s, try it in a martini or your favorite spin on a gin and tonic recipe.
Camille Wilson’s favorite wildcard gin for mixing up an eye-popping French 75 is Empress Gin. The Canadian brand was inspired by the high tea service offered at the Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia in 1908 and would make an excellent pick for tea aficionados. If you’re new to the brand, it uses black tea and butterfly pea blossom on top of traditional gin botanicals to bring big flavor and a striking blue-purple color. Adding citrus or tonic water to the gin will transform it into a pink-hued cocktail, so it will definitely dazzle in a French 75.
Wine Enthusiast rated Empress Gin one of the Top 100 Spirits of 2020, proving that this gin is more than just a fun party trick. The folks at Drinkhacker note that this bottle is akin to a London dry gin that is heavy on the juniper, though you will also experience a pleasant note of rose petals. The Fairmont Empress black tea brings an earthy hit to the palate that is sure to make for a one-of-a-kind cocktail experience.
Sipsmith London Dry Gin
Though it’s one of the youngest brands on this list, Sipsmith Gin has become a major player in the category thanks to its traditional profile, well-rounded palate, and its ability to elevate all your favorite gin-centric libations. Though its recipe was created in 2009, Sipsmith founders looked to centuries-old distilling traditions for making its highly lauded spirit that features 10 botanicals and an incredibly smooth finish.
Brand ambassador Keli Rivers tells Tasting Table that Sipsmith is a perennial favorite for concocting French 75s because it’s a classic style gin that would have been similar to gins that were present during the cocktail’s creation in the early 20th century. "It has a balance of juniper and citrus itself, which perfectly complements the other elements in the cocktail," she says. "These types of gin have more structure that will support the citrus from the lemon juice and some of the crisper notes from the sparkling wine."
Adrienne Stillman Krausz is a fan of buzzy Aviation, especially for new gin drinkers or those who just prefer a less juniper-heavy pick. The American gin features a unique botanical blend that includes French lavender, two kinds of orange peel, and sarsaparilla to create a versatile spirit that will jazz up any cocktail. "Aviator Gin’s additional botanicals like cardamom, coriander, lavender, and sarsaparilla, are nice compliments to the bright, lemony citrus and crisp Champagne in a French 75," says Stillman Krausz.
Though the popularity of Aviation has no doubt been boosted by its big time Hollywood connection (actor and entrepreneur Ryan Reynolds is notably an investor), the gin definitely lives up to the hype. Along with Stillman Krausz’s endorsement, Aviation earns plenty of other accolades, including a near-perfect rating from Spirits Review which applauds the gin’s unique botanical blend that lends an entirely new drinking experience for aficionados.
Blake Posey, the co-owner of Juniper, a gin bar in Birmingham, Alabama advises relying on a classic gin like Bombay Sapphire for a traditional French 75 sipping experience. He notes that it’s important to avoid getting heavy-handed with gin in this cocktail so it doesn’t overpower the other elements and that a gin like Bombay Sapphire is just the thing to create a balanced libation.
Bombay Sapphire is made in the style of London Dry Gin and is produced in Hampshire though its 10 botanicals are sourced from across the world. This recipe features coriander seeds from Morocco, grains of paradise from West Africa, and licorice root from China to create the best London Dry Gin on the market, according to Liquor.com. Plus, the electric blue bottles looks beautiful on a bar cart.
"For everyday French 75’s you’re looking for something that’s affordable and not too abrasive," Posey tells Tasting Table. "This is because the addition of sparkling wine, lemon, and sugar take away from what the gin is doing, and you don’t want the flavors to ‘butt heads.’"
The Botanist Islay Dry Gin
"Whenever a guest inquires about a French 75 cocktail, I will always reach for The Botanist Islay Dry Gin," says Meaghan Montagano, beverage manager at Nat’s on Bank in Manhattan’s West Village. "I love how the expressiveness of this spirit and complexity of its sustainably foraged botanicals lend themselves perfectly to this cocktail."
Montagano tells Tasting Table that it’s important to have a quality spirit with a depth of character as the backbone of a French 75 that will balance out the other ingredients without dominating the flavor of this bubbly beverage. Though Scottish gin The Botanist is relatively new to the scene, it has become a revered spirit in its 12 years of operation.
What’s unique about The Botanist is that all 22 of the gin’s botanicals are foraged in Islay, Scotland where it is also distilled and hand-crafted for a unique expression of the breathtaking island. Gin Boss notes that The Botanist offers a layered sipping experience featuring herbal, floral, woodsy, minty, and citrus notes that are sure to elevate a sweet-tart French 75. Plus, it’s citrusy, floral finish that isn’t as juniper-forward as most spirits, according to Bevvy, making it an appealing pick to gin newbies looking to try their first French 75.
Tanqueray London Dry Gin
For a well-balanced yet memorable French 75, Blake Posey recommends opting for Tanqueray London Dry Gin. This iconic brand has been around for nearly 200 years and remains one of the top-selling gin brands on the market (via The Spirits Business). Tanqueray earned an impressive 96-100 score from Wine Enthusiast which calls the spirit the "quintessential" London Dry Gin that is a benchmark for the category. It’s only fitting as the brand’s founder was a true pioneer of London Dry Gin as we know it today, innovating new methods and introducing new ingredients that would change the category forever, according to The Spirits Business.
Founded by Charles Tanqueray in the 1830s, this London Dry Gin was distilled in the artistic neighborhood of Bloomsbury but has since moved to Edinburgh, Scotland after an air raid in WWII destroyed the London distillery. The brand still features Tanqueray’s original recipe that features a unique blend of five botanicals, three types of citrus, and chamomile flowers for a smooth and refreshing bottle that’s ideal for a French 75.
Alcohol-free pick: Ceder’s Classic Gin Alternative
Booze isn’t essential for a satisfying French 75. Adrienne Stillman Krausz, who along with her husband Jake founded The Dry Goods Beverage Company, says that Ceder’s Classic Gin Alternative is a must-have for those looking to avoid alcohol. Ceder’s was created in 2017 when its founders discovered a valley in South Africa rich in botanicals that have been used by the region’s Indigenous Peoples for thousands of years. Combining the spectacular botanicals in the Western Cape like rooibos and buchu, this gin alternative is worth a try no matter your love for traditional spirits due to its one-of-a-kind recipe.
Stillman Krausz, who sells Ceder’s as part of a French 75 Mocktail Kit says that it’s a great pick for fans of Hendrick’s looking to watch their booze intake. She specifies that out of its four varieties, the Classic, which offers "great citrus, ginger, and sage notes," is her top choice for whipping up an alcohol-free French 75.